Every once in a while, I am asked to fill in for a pastor who is ill, gone on a trip or otherwise unable to lead the church temporarily. I have helped out in Tipton, IN, Indianapolis, Noblesville, IN and even our hometown of Carmel. To be sure, I don’t fill in very often, but from time to time I take the place of the pastor and preach during Sunday service.
Such an opportunity has presented itself for me this coming March. Only this time, it isn’t for one or two weekends – I get to take over a church for a dear friend for the entire month of March. One of the things that makes this so special is that the pastor is Dr. Steve Smith, the dean of the seminary that I attended and the man who mentored me through my first doctorate.
If it wasn’t for Dr. Smith, I may not have made it through school. He taught Hebrew and Greek, both subjects that I took, and also sponsored me when I was invited to go on for my doctorate after receiving my Master of Divinity. It was a joy to be in his classes and yet, it was incredibly difficult work – much tougher than when I was in my twenties.
When the time came for me to defend my dissertation, it was Dr. Smith who coached me through the process and was present every step of the way during my oral defense. And it was Dr. Smith who would call me in the car every morning on my way to class and announce, “Good morning, Mr. Toussaint.” Of course, I lived for the day when he would finally call me one morning and say, “Good Morning, Dr. Toussaint!” Eventually, that happened!
Our friendship continued throughout the years. In fact, he asked me to conduct the ceremony for his daughter’s wedding. Sadly, several years later, I also conducted her funeral. I was with Dr. Smith when we did the funeral for his mother and from time to time, I have continued to ask him theological questions that come up in the Bible study that I teach.
So you can see how special this particular pulpit assignment is to me. What a privilege to be able to fill in for my mentor and friend who helped my fulfill my calling to complete seminary and work in ministry.
Now I am deep in thought and prayer about what I should teach during the four weeks that I am filling the pulpit for Dr. Smith. I can’t help but think that this is a wonderful opportunity to teach a series throughout the month. The congregation is somewhat theologically sophisticated which is no surprise considering the scholar that Dr. Smith is.
So far, I am considering a series on career transition in the Bible – people who were going down one path and then God called them to another assignment. I have studied this subject for years but I am concerned it may be of more interest to me than it would be to a congregation. And then, my other idea is to preach on biblical nuggets, topics in the Bible that we have read many times – to the point that they become almost automatic. But… we really don’t read the verse for what it really says… Time will tell what way I go… it’s purely a matter of prayer.
Our verse for tonight reminds us that God’s word is of paramount importance. Paul, the apostle, tells his church in Colosse, and us, in Colossian3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” Sounds like for formula for a church service, doesn’t it?
My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to preach his word and act in a manner befitting our status as sons and daughters of God. My prayer is that God will direct my steps and that my time as an interim pastor for Dr. Smith will be fruitful and draw his congregation closer to Christ. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…