The Collected Sermons of William H. Willimon

Willimon, William H.

Westminster John Knox, 2010

p. 99

Willimon writes about a church member he used to have—a man who owned a hardware store. He was hard on preachers who, in 1968, presented their weekly diatribe against Nixon and the Vietnam War. On one occasion of such doings, he “had stood up from where he was sitting, shook his head, and walked right out.” So Willimon started preaching ‘with one eye on my notes and the other eye on him.” “You can imagine my fear when one Sunday, having waited until everyone had shaken my hand and left the narthex, he approached me, gritting his teeth and muttering something about, ‘I just don’t see things your way, preacher.’ I moved into my best mode of nondefensive defensiveness, assuring him that my sermon was just one way of looking at things, and that perhaps he had misinterpreted what I had said, and, even if he had not, I could very well be wrong.”

“’Don’t you back off with me,’ he snapped. ‘I just said that your sermon shook me up. I didn’t ask you to take it back. Stick by your guns—if you’re a real preacher.’ Then he said to me with an almost desperate tone in his voice, ‘Preacher, don’t you ever forget that on some days, the only thing saving me from complete despair is whatever word of God you happen to preach in the sermon. Don’t you dare take it back.’”