Running on the Rim

A little homily on "flat" sermons

By J. L. BROWN, Departmental Secretary, South American Division

Our Urcos mission station is in a produc­tive section of Peru, not many miles from the city of Cuzco. The road that leads up and down through the valley is in fairly good con­dition, considering the surroundings and the country. It was my privilege recently to visit this mission in company with the director, who offered to take two of us fellow workers to Cuzco in his little "missionary car." We had covered a little over half the distance when one of the tires blew out. The inner tube was completely ruined before we could stop. We had no fifth wheel, nor even a spare tube.

All that could be done was to travel the last few miles on the rim, over the gravelly, rocky road. Yes, we were running on the rim. We two passengers left the driver and his car and sought a more comfortable means of transportation.

Not infrequently a missionary preacher has a "blowout" in his sermon when he is only about half through his discourse. He tries to speed on in "high," but the back-seat passenger-listeners soon discover that he is running on a "flat." Finally he realizes that he is losing speed, and is troubled. He stops a moment, wipes the perspiration from his forehead, and begins to ponder. He has a flat ! He reaches for his kit (notes), but finds that he has no repairs, and no extra inner tube. All his wind was spent in the blowout. The only thing left for him to do now is to run on to the end of his sermon "on the rim."

The grinding of the rim on the gravel grates on people's nerves. They wish the preacher would stop, so they might get out and find some other way of transportation to the Holy City.

This little running-on-the-rim incident calls to my mind an experience which took place in my own career about twenty years ago. Per­haps other young ministers have also gone through the same agony. I was to preach a sermon in a crowded theater in the city of Santiago, Chile, during an annual gathering of our people. This was my first sermon in Santiago. I had good "passengers," such as Elder 0. Montgomery, the division president; Elder J. W. Westphal, the Austral Union president; and a theater full of believers and unbelievers. The brethren were anxious to hear the new "missionary preacher" deliver the message.

I got started in fine shape, but the road seemed rougher than at other times. When I was about halfway through my discourse, I realized that my audience was listening to a "flat" sermon. I had experienced a "blowout." My .wind had failed me. I nervously reached for, "repairs," but there were none. The rest of my sermon was spent "running on the rim," and my "passengers," of course, wished that I would stop.

Finally I arrived at the end of my sermon.

I was covered with perspiration, and sadly disappointed in myself. I was defeated. It was then that Elder Montgomery stepped up to me and said: "Young man, that is the best thing that ever happened to you. I have gone through that experience more than once." Elder Westphal also felt sympathetic, but heartily agreed that it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

This experience set me to thinking. I could not afford to stand still or give up. I must find my trouble and be prepared for the next trip. I thought of a young missionary who had gone through just such an experience in the church in Gland, Switzerland, once while I was sitting in the audience, and I hoped that I would never have to go through the same ex­perience again. So I determined to use my defeat as a steppingstone to higher ground.

"If there is any single factor that makes for suc­cess in living, it is the ability to draw dividends from defeat. . . . Defeats are nothing to be ashamed of. They are routine incidents in the life of every man who achieves. But defeat is a dead loss unless you face it without humiliation, analyze it, and learn why you failed to make your objective."—William Moulton Marston.

The disciples were defeated on one occasion when they tried and failed to cast out an evil spirit. The frustrated followers of Jesus came to Him asking for help in the analysis of their defeat. He told them frankly that this kind of spirit would not leave without fasting and prayer.

"Christ was constantly confronted with apparent failure. . . . But He would not be discouraged. . . . The life of Christ's disciples is to be like His, a series of uninterrupted victories."—"Gospel Work­ers," pp. 514, 515.

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By J. L. BROWN, Departmental Secretary, South American Division

January 1939

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