The Dodgers are perhaps my second or third favorite major league basball team. I especially enjoyed watching them in the 1980s. (Maybe more because they beat Reggie Jackson and the Yankees when my KC Royals didn’t)
Two of the greatest Dodger personalities of all time were Vin Sculley and Tommy Lasorda. Sculley was the Shakespeare of Baseball commentary calling Dodger games for over 50 years. Lasorda, a hall of fame coach with multiple World Series wins. How do these two men relate to my blog today on preaching? Keep these two men in mind as I explain.
As a preacher I want to be open to discovery and improvement. Honestly if I don’t occasionally experience some improvement in my preaching my ministry becomes stale.
Today as I was studying for my Sunday morning message, I realized a weakness I have in sermon formatting and composition. I shy away from offending my hearers by presenting truth in a sterile format. I use the third person instead of the first or second person. This permits the listener to remain on the outside as an observer rather than forcing them to step inside the message as a participant.
It’s the difference between a Sculley and a Lasorda. Sculley sits in the booth and talks to the fans about the game, the players, the strategies, the rules, etc. He may be considered an expert but he is distant and removed from the game. He works to be objective and report on the game as a third person. Sculley uses words like “they and he.” “He was behind the pitch.” “They need to play harder.” The Sculley, as good as he is, is still outside the game.
But Lasorda was in the game. He cared more about the outcome of the game than Sculley. His job security and future negotiating leverage was at stake. So he addressed players directly. He used “you” more than the Scully did. “Here’s what YOU need to do.” Here’s how YOU can inprove.” Lasorda got personal. And sometimes offended players.
And that’s why I avoid the Lasorda approach and favor the Sculley approach. I want to explain truth without becoming offensive. But I’m learning that this approach creates fans who know the game, can discuss strategies, and watch victories; it does not develop players who are playing the game, living out the life, experiencing victory.
So in order to become more effective in my preaching, and develop players instead of just fans, I will need to change my pronouns, get more personal and think more like Tommy Lasorda.
There s irony in the drama between Mordecai and Haman which unfolds in the Old Testament book of Esther. Mordecai was a descendant of King Saul, and Haman was the descendant of King Agag. 700 years prior to the current story another story played out in 1 Samuel 15 between Samuel, Saul and Agag, the Amalekite. God instructed Saul to destroy the Amalekites including their King Agag to punish them for fighting his people as they exited Egypt. Saul spared Agag however, setting up another showdown 700 years later between Mordecai and Haman.
Of course the fall of Wicked Haman illustrates great poetic justice. The story highlights the courage of both Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai to risk the King’s wrath by exposing the plot of a prince favored by the King. It further displays the sovereignty of God in protecting His people, Israel.
But one lesson often missed due to the forgotten link between Saul and Mordecai, Agag and Haman is that Disoedience today will lead to problems later.
For 6 years it appeared that God’s covenant with David had been broken. For Athaliah, daughter of Phoenician queen Jezebel was also the wife to Jehoram, King of Judah. When both her husband, Jehoram and her son, Ahaziah, were killed by Jehu, Athaliah seized upon her opportunity to be queen. She destroyed all the royal seed of David–her grandsons– and claimed the throne of David As a Gentile queen. Had God forsaken His promise to David?
But through the the secret intervention of his aunt Jehosheba, Joash was spared as the last surviving male member of David’s family. Jehosheba was King Ahaziah’s sister, Athaliah’s own daughter and wife of the high priest, Jehoiada.
Six years into this reign of Athaliah, Jehoida and Jehosheba, led a coup to overthrow the queen and re-establish the Davidic Kingdom with Joash serving as King. What courage and independence to defy your own mother to save and hide your nephew. Truly an act of sacrifice.
Joash’s story begins with promise and providence. 2 Chronicles 24 tells how Joash’s youthful zeal for the Lord was lost when his mentor, Jehoiada died. Joash allowed himself to be influenced by ungodly friends. His mentor’s son, Zechariah, tried to dissuade him from drifting but Joash had him killed for his rebuke.
A sad end to a promising and providential life.
My wife was nearly hit by a car this week. She loves to get up before dawn and go for a walk or jog. However we live on a two lane highway just outside of town. The highway is a main artery for poultry trucks. On the occasions when I’ve joined her on her jogs we have tried to face oncoming traffic. Occasionally due to oncoming traffic in both lanes we are prevented from choosing the safer side of the road.
But recently she was alone early in the morning, jogging along the side of the highway, with a flashlight, our dog and her Bluetooth headphones. Out of her peripheral vision she noticed headlights fast approaching. As she turned to her left she suddenly realized what was happening. A pickup truck was in the process of passing an 18 wheeler on her side of the road, most likely entirely unaware of her presence.
As the truck passed, she says there was only a two foot space of separation between her and the truck and even less between our dog and the truck. The experience has convinced her to utilize our fitness center membership for her exercise.
This experience has been added to our catalog of stories illustrating God’s providence and mercy over our lives. Needless to say, I am thankful that the Lord spared the life of my dear wife. I can’t imagine life without her.