A Sermon in 272 Words

gettysburg-address-2

We don’t have an actual photograph of Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address because the speech was over before the photographer had time to take one.

I’ve been talking about it on Facebook and Twitter for weeks, and here it is, today’s “Gettysburg sermon.” At 272 words, it is the same length as Lincoln’s masterful address, delivered 150 years ago on Tuesday.

Err… let’s just say he had a gift.

(Preacher nerds: you’ll notice I couldn’t resist trying a Lowry loop, even with so few words! Old habits die hard.)

MaryAnn McKibben Dana
Idylwood Presbyterian Church
November 17, 2013

Psalm 98

O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD. Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

~

Here is a psalm for the month of thanksgiving! It is infused with gratitude as the psalmist rhapsodizes about God’s glory, the wonders of creation, and the thankful songs of the people of God. We are sailing along on a swelling sea of words like joy, steadfast love, faithfulness.

And then, like a thud, or like a needle scratching across the record, we’re told:

God is coming to judge us. To judge.

What comes to mind when you hear that word?

Maybe you’re rubbing your hands together imagining “bad guys” getting what they deserve, and “good guys” getting their reward, courtesy of God’s perfect justice.

Maybe you’re making a mental tally of your secret transgressions, squirming, wondering what side of the ledger sheet you will come out on.

Maybe you’re disturbed by the idea of a judging God.

Note that, in the midst of God coming as judge, the psalmist doesn’t tell us to shape up…
or beg us to repent.
He doesn’t even urge us to get to work doing what God commands.

Instead, he asks us to sing.

God will come—God does come—among us. But we don’t worry or calculate. We don’t try to measure up or crack God’s code. We simply inhale deeply, breathing in God’s spirit, and sing—with our voices, with our lives, and here with this community.

Yesterday’s health fair, and last week’s CROP hunger walk, are more than mission activities. They are songs of praise, joyfully offered to a God who promises to be with us always, who calls us not to despair, but to offer a new song.

Thanks be to God.

~

UPDATE: Here are three additional Gettysburg sermons, from Jason Cashing, Rob Jackson, and Jen Hackbarth. Thanks for sharing, everyone!

5 thoughts on “A Sermon in 272 Words

  1. Meg Mann

    Hey, MAMcKD– I left NCP before you got there, but I’m friends with many of your friends (and fans). I just want you to know that there actually *is* a photo of Lincoln at the Address. He is seated, hat off. I actually have an original made from the original daguerreotype. If I can locate it (too many moves!), I’ll send it to you. Meg Mann, pastor at Fox Chase Pres in Philadrlphia.

    Reply
  2. Grace

    Wow, all these years my default sermon structure has been the Lowry loop and I haven’t even known it! :)

    Fascinating experiment, and it seemed like more than 272 words as I read it (in a good way, i.e. you packed a lot of meaning in there).

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Thanksgiving in 272 Words | Snow Day

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