The Second Sunday of Lent: Psalm 27
Bill Steward: firstname.lastname@example.org
When I began my work as an itinerant United Methodist minister some years ago, I was comforted by believing that no matter where in Iowa I was appointed I would never be without three old-reliable, solid-as-a-rock resources: The Des Moines Register, the United States Postal Service, and Ann Landers/Abigail Van Buren’s advice columns. Duh. And now Ann and Abby have both passed from the scene.
For those of you unfamiliar with Ann (1918-2002) and Abby (1918-2013): They were identical twins from Sioux City, Morningside College attendees, and authors of wildly popular dueling syndicated newspaper advice columns from the 50s-on. Think Suze Orman or Dr. Drew but with bigger audiences. Ann and Abby offered sanctified common sense for the millions.
Their newspaper columns continue—but without their distinctive charm and chutzpah. Here are some classic quotes.
*”Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as evidence that you are wonderful.” (Ann)
*”People who fight with fire usually end up with ashes.” (Abby)
*”Make someone happy today, and mind your own business.” (Ann)
*”Fear less, hope more. Eat less, chew more. Talk less, say more. Hate less, love more, and never underestimate the power of forgiveness.” (Abby)
*”The best index of a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good.” (Ann and Abby)
I have attended to Ann and Abby through the years. Good advice has its place but don’t you agree that the best things anyone can ever say fall not into the category of good advice but good news? William Sloane Coffin, Jr. got it right: The best things that can be said aren’t in the imperative but the indicative mood. “If God’s love for us is the first and greatest thing that can be said about biblical faith, then the primary religious emotion is gratitude not duty. Duty calls when gratitude fails to prompt. So the great imperatives have to take second place. They are the signposts of faith. The indicatives are the hitching posts.”
Aren’t these some of the best things anyone has ever said:
*”The Sovereign One is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Sovereign One is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
*If my father and mother forsake me, the Sovereign One will take me up.” (27:10)
*”God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
*God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God and God abides in them.”
(I John 4:16)
Here’s some free advice: Read over your recent sermons and see whether you have been emphasizing the great imperatives or the great indicatives. When we preachers delete the great indicatives from our sermons, we become wasted and worn, tired and tiresome.
One last bit of unsolicited advice, almost up to Ann and Abby’ standards: “Never give advice---it will just backfire on you.” (Father Guido Sarducci)