The preacher’s last sermon

Travis Irwin Steele Avenue Church of Christ 1981 - 2004.jpg

I’m typing this next to my dad’s deathbed.

I feel weird about that word–“deathbed”–but it is the correct word for the bed and the scene just beside me here.

Dad and I once tried to figure out how many sermons he preached in his lifetime. I think we came up with something like 3,500 sermons over almost half a century in church pulpits.

From my first memories of him, I’ve only ever known Dad as a preacher.

It is almost as hard to grasp that Dad has preached his last sermon as it is to imagine that he won’t be at family gatherings anymore.

This week, I remembered how Dad devoted an hour every Sunday afternoon to calling people who were missing from morning church. Dad knew every face in his congregation. When he scanned the pews from the pulpit, he never missed a missing face.

Each Sunday afternoon call started something like this:

“Sister Smith! This is the preacher calling. We missed you at church this morning. How are you getting along today?”

When he was done with phone calls, he drove around town to visit people who were shut in or sick.

For every sermon Dad preached in his lifetime, I reckon he made ten or 20 of these phone calls and visits.

Dad thought he was only ever just an OK preacher. A few years ago, he threw all of his sermons in the trash. I have to say: He was no Billy Graham.

But people didn’t come to Dad because he was a captivating and charismatic speaker; they came to him because he went to them first. He went to them because he loved them. All of them. Just as they were.

People believed the Gospel Dad preached because they received the Gospel Dad practiced with his attention, care, respect, service, and time.

This Sunday morning, Dad is on his deathbed and can barely speak.

But to thousands of people, his life and memory are still preaching to them.

His last sermon is his love lasting in the lives of many.

May that one day be said of you and me.

Grace and peace.


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