This past Sunday afternoon I was invited to be a part of the anniversary service of Greater St. Mark’s Baptist Church. It was a special invitation as Greater St. Mark’s pastor Rev. Armstead has been battling brain cancer over these past several months and has been unable to be present for Sunday worship. But Rev. Armstead was planning to be there for the anniversary.
When I arrived I was disappointed to learn that Rev. Armstead was too weak to make it. I also learned I was going to be preaching the service. One of the deacons met me at the door and said, “Rev. Armstead can’t make it but he wanted to make sure you got this.” With that the deacon put a check into my hand.
“Oh, this isn’t for me,” I said. “I’m not preaching. I’m just saying a prayer.”
“Oh no, your preaching,” he said. “Rev. Armstead told us.”
Without Rev. Armstead present to argue my case against I reconciled myself to the fact that ready or not I was soon going to be preaching. I turned to Elder Robert Kyles, who was a special guest at the service and who just happened to have come to worship at Second B earlier that morning. “You’re going to recognize this sermon,” I said.
I preached the same sermon I preached Sunday morning – though admittedly with a little more pizzazz and a lot more volume. My subject was “Inner Resources” and I again told how in WWII German U-boats sank British merchant ships and contrary to expectation it was often the older sailors who stayed alive in the turbulent and frigid waters. A study later determined that while the younger sailors were indeed physically strong, the older sailors had the inner resources necessary to survive such a trying ordeal.
At the end of the sermon I told the people of Greater St. Mark’s that despite not knowing that I was going to be preaching, I believed God had nevertheless given me a word. I said that Rev. Armstead’s boat had been sunk and that he is now swimming for his life. And I reminded them, he is no young sailor. He’s been around a long time. He is in touch with his inner resources. He knows from whence his help comes from. He’s not about to just give up. “And neither,” I said, “is his congregation.”
I sat down from the pulpit and Elder Kyles turned and leaned into my ear. “That was better than this morning,” he whispered.
May the God of great inner resources give us all just the right words at just the right time as we encourage one another to keep swimming.