July 23rd, 2011

junior woodchuck guidebook

It's the law

I've been reading a book called The Lombard Laws. The Lombards were one of the last Germanic nations to take over a major piece of the Western Roman Empire -- in their case, Italy. The hassles of ruling over a Germanic people and the Romans in which they found themselves, moved several of their kings to issue law codes. The Lombard Laws is a translation into English of all these laws, with historical commentary.

One of the later laws of King Liutprand (issued AD 733) is titled, "Concerning the woman, bathing in a river, whose clothes are stolen." This law was written following an actual instance of the behavior described. How often it happened afterwards is anybody's guess, but it is certainly less silly than some of the laws passed in our day. So far as I know, no Lombard king or duke ever promulgated a law establishing Lombard (or Roman) History Month or a Ducal Bird. And while I'm sure there were some big spenders back in the eighth Century, none of the kings could use their fisc to raise the kingdom's debt ceiling and magic up more money without some prospect of repayment.

On re-preaching old sermons

A friend told me years ago that one of the advantages to a congregation of an experienced pastor is that he didn't have to write a new sermon every week. There's something to that. I often dip into my sermon barrel for something at high-stress times of the year, like when I'll be coming back from a long trip and getting up on little sleep the first Sunday back. But I also have certain old favorites, both single sermons and series, that I preach again and again. And this is nothing to be ashamed of; after all, so great an authority as John Wesley was in favor of re-preaching old sermons.

Beyond the time management issue, though, I find two additional advantages to re-preaching old sermons. The first is what it gives the congregation. The younger Me who wrote that sermon however long ago was dealing with different issues, interested in different topics, approached things differently from how the present Me does. That means my congregation is receiving the gospel on a wider bandwidth, not confined to what might be called my current obsessions.

The second advantage is what re-preaching gives to me. That younger Me is sufficiently removed from my current interests and approach that in preparing to re-preach that old sermon, it is almost as if I am having the gospel preached to me. And that challenges me and comforts me in important ways. I almost never get to receive the ministry of preaching -- I'm always on the giving side -- so I listen carefully to what God has to say to me through my younger self.