My “Super Bowl” sermon 20 years ago

(My journal for January 1996 records this message as the one I preached on Super Bowl Sunday, January 28.  After reading these notes, you may be interested in the post scripts.  Every pastor will understand the final one…and will shake his head in amazement at the littleness of some people in church…in every church, let us emphasize.)

Title:  THE GOSPEL FOR SPORTS-AHOLICS

Text: Hebrews 12:1-2  “Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, national day of worship for a country crazy about sports. I’m a sports fan too, altho’ a bigger baseball fan than anything else.  For one thing, you can carry on a nice conversation with your neighbor and they don’t have cheerleaders and there is very little rowdiness.

Margaret and I have been amazed to see that the second word our grandson (Grant) learned was ‘ball.’ I’ve said to his mother Julie that if he grows up to be involved in all kinds of sports, don’t be surprised, that apparently he came to us that way.

It will interest you to know that much of the world has always been sports-crazy. We know about the Olympic Games–which were started in 776 B.C.! The rest, as they say, is history.

The Apostle Paul knew about sports and apparently loved them as most men do.  Tonight we will look at I Corinthians 9 where he talks about sports as illustrating some spiritual points.

Here in Hebrews 12:1-2, a great sporting event is going on.  This one is the Super Bowl to end all Super Bowls. And you and I are playing in it.  I want you to see 5 things….

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Five things for Joe

(I started this piece toward the end of October, in the 9th month of widowhood.  And finished it today.)

My sister and several friends are saying I have to do something for Joe.

Like we’re talking about a third-person here.

I replied to one, “I’m not sure what that means.  I do my job. I draw cartoons for editors, I work on my blog, I travel to cities where I preach the Gospel and sketch people, and then I come home. When I get home, I dump stuff in the washer, take things to the cleaners, buy groceries, deposit checks in the bank, and have the car washed.  Then, a week or so later, I do it all over again. It’s my life.”

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Love won.

“Above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8).

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

My dad was an enigma.  From his youth, he was clearly someone special, otherwise my teenage mama-to-be would never have been drawn to him and her daddy, a shrewd judge of character, would not have consented for her to marry him.

The eldest of what would eventually be an even dozen children, Carl McKeever was intelligent, possessed with excellent common sense, strong in body, and handsome in appearance. But he had a temper which he could not always control and developed a fondness for drink. His mouth was foul, particularly when with his friends, and he had a mean streak in him.

And yet, people were drawn to him.

We still have the hand-scribbled note on a piece of brown paper torn off from a grocery bag apparently, where Grandpa Virge Kilgore consented for Carl J. McKeever, age 21, to marry Lois Jane Kilgore, 17.

So, they must have seen something there.

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You’re a pastor; you’re not like us.

It was some forty years ago, and I was flying home from somewhere, the last leg of the trip being from Memphis to Columbus MS where I pastored.

It was a dark and stormy night.

And the planes assigned to our Golden Triangle Airport by Southern Airways were the ancient Martin 404s.  Prop jets, maybe they are called.

We bounced all over the sky that night. Lightning flashed around us, rain pelted our little plane, and thunder crashed.

You’ve heard of white-knucklers; this was the mother of them all.

The next day in the supermarket, a woman whom I did not know introduced herself. “My husband was on that awful flight from Memphis last night.”

Oh yes.  That was unforgettable, I said.

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My bucket list: The revised standard version

A friend gave me a nice hardbound, spiral notebook the other day. The cover says “My Bucket List Journal.” At the bottom are the words “Write it down!”

Inside, the first two pages offer 100 blanks to list the places one plans to go, the experiences he wants to have, the mountains to climb, before “kicking the bucket.”

A few years ago, I compiled such a list and published it on my blog. It was picked up and reprinted by many other websites. By googling “bucket list McKeever”, I got this one:  http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/the-christian-bucket-list-50-things-every-believer-should-do-before-heaven-11631119.html

However, as I told my friend who gave me the book….

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Joe is interviewed by Vanity Fair (sort of)

On the final page of Vanity Fair’s October 2015 issue, Whoopi Goldberg is interviewed. The questions are generic, sort of here’s-how-to-interview-anyone. So, I thought I’d give it a try and answer them myself. (At the end, I added a few more.)  Here goes….

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being in the place God put me, doing the work He gave me.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  Likewise, the best definition of hell on earth is to be out of His will.

What is your greatest fear?

Just that very thing: being out of his will.  I fear nothing so much as disappointing Him.  That could happen to any of us. None of us is immune to temptation. That keeps me on my knees every day.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Abraham Lincoln. I’ve been to his birthplace, the restored “New Salem” where he lived as a young man, to his hometown of Springfield, his burial place, and in Washington, D.C., to Ford Theatre and the house where he died.  I own many books on Lincoln.

Which living person do you most admire?

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How God works. (Hint: It’s different from our ways.)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8).

“When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)

On the farm, after we killed the hog, someone had to make cracklings, known otherwise as “cooking the lard.”  (They were never pronounced “cracklings;” the ‘g’ was always dropped.)

A fire was built under a black iron pot into which cut-up portions of the less-desirable fatty hog meat was thrown.  As a worker stood by stirring, the contents boiled and bubbled and gradually released the lard, leaving behind a crisp rind (called the cracklin’), sometimes carrying a streak of lean.  The lard went into gallon containers for household cooking throughout the year. Cracklins became snack-foods for relaxing times, and can be bought commercially even today.

Similarly, the messages I have preached over a half-century have been boiled down to their essence. (No greasy rinds left, however!)  Mostly, the result–that is, the gist of my preaching these days–ends up looking something like this….

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Looking back and assessing your ministry

“Remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears…. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel…. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’….” (Acts 20:31-35)

I wonder how it would be to stand before a group of elders and tell them of the 13+ years I served the Lord at the First Baptist Church of Kenner, or the 3+ years before that at the Church in Charlotte. Or the 12+ years prior to that at the Church in Columbus, Mississippi.

Could I get it right?  Would I be prone to brag or exaggerate? Or to omit and gloss over?

This Spring, I returned to Greenville, Mississippi, where we pastored Emmanuel Baptist Church as our first congregation after seminary.  We had never spent any time in Mississippi prior to this and knew absolutely nothing about life in the Delta, particularly in the late 1960s when racial unrest was at its height.  Greenville lies only a few miles west of the birthplace of the (white) Citizens Council.

We served in Greenville from November 1967 through December of 1970.  Three years and two months.  Not long by most standards. But looking back and reminiscing, I am amazed at all the things that took place in that brief time. Consider….

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So, how would you write your obituary?

My son Neil and I had a few days to work on Margaret’s obituary.  Understandably, he could not bring himself to think about it while she lingered in the hospital on life support.  It was hard, but I worked on the essentials.

Margaret and I used to talk about these things. But not seriously. Somehow, you think this could never happen to you.

Margaret’s sister, widowed perhaps four years ago, told how someone praised her husband Jim with a good line which she later used as an opener in his memorial.  So, we began thinking about that.

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What my 90-year-old father taught me about life

“Never unprepared.”

The McKeever crest actually claims that as our family motto, going back to somewhere, Ireland or Scotland or both.

I used to laugh at the irony of that.  I mean, what were our people, a bunch of boy scouts?

I’m not laughing any more. My dad taught me how it works.

Carl J. McKeever, the 6th generation descendant of Cornelius “Neil” McKeever who arrived from the old country on the east coast around 1803, was definitely an original. The first-born of an even dozen children, Dad started working inside the coal mines in 1926 when he was 14.  His formal education ended with the seventh grade, but he never stopped growing and learning and being curious.

At the time this happened, I thought this was hilarious.

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