Words which come back to haunt us

If you visit the Deputy Prime Minister’s website you will find that it still displays one of his party’s key posters from the General Election campaign. The poster in question warned the electorate about the dangers of VAT increases under a new government, and has proved to be prophetic. By the time you read this, it is quite possible that one of Mr Clegg’s staff will have removed the advertisement from the website, since it must be a cause of some embarrassment.

The thing is, any of us who venture to speak in the public arena must learn to live with the words we have uttered.  In one sense they are ephemeral. They live for the seconds or moments it takes to pronounce them, and are then swallowed up into the ether. As preachers we believe that they are inspired (or at least directed) by God for these people at this time for this purpose. In another sense, though, we long for them to endure.  We long for them to have an impact in hearts and minds long after the bible is closed the church lights turned off and the sermon notes filed under “t” for “tried my best”. Technology extends their life through podcasts and the like, but we hope for another kind of endurance.

So how are you coping with the ghost of sermons past?  Do they cackle at you from your shelves – taunting you for not doing better?  Do they rustle their sheets of notes in indignation when you dare to improve on something you said before about the same passage?  Or are theirs the reassuring and avuncular voices of wisdom through experience?

Whichever they are, I hope none of them turn out to be a “bombshell” like the words on that other website.