The 2006 Rochester College Sermon Seminar wrapped up around noon on Wednesday. I took the scenic route home. West Virginia and western Maryland are beautiful. I could fly from Philly to Detroit and back in order to attend this seminar, but I’ve found the “windshield time” that driving affords is almost as valuable as the seminar itself.
A family member asked me this morning what I learned at the seminar. What did I learn? It’s hard to boil it down to a sound-bite-like answer. I definitely left with a deeper appreciation for the Sermon on the Mount, which I wouldn’t have imagined possible. These words of Jesus have always been near and dear to my heart.
Please let me explain. When I was a child the Bible was of little consequence in my household. The only copy we had in the house, to my knowledge, was the massive family Bible which was tucked away in a cubby under the coffee table in the living room. We never took it out and dusted it off when the preacher came by, because none ever did. When I was somewhere around twelve years of age, I slipped that big old white Bible out of the living room into my bed room and tried to read it. Man was it tough. It was, of course, the King James Version. The obscure language made it difficult. Also, I figured every book should be read front-to-back. This made it even tougher, but I forged on. In time, as I leafed through the pages and struggled through what seemed like a wasteland of words, I made an astounding discovery. Near what seemed to me like that back of the book I found these red-letter-words. They were easier to understand. They even felt good in my heart as I they came to rest there. From then on, I was eager to plunk that big old Bible down on my bed and race over to the red letters. I’m not sure how many times I read the Sermon on the Mount as a youngster, but it was many. That’s why these words spoken by Jesus are near and dear to my heart.
While there were many notable things about the seminar, I will comment on just one for now. Rubel Shelly was the final speaker. His message was entitled: “God Responds to All Who Seek”. It was one of the finest sermons I have ever heard preached. By examining the words of Christ, Rubel helped me see into the heart of God and be reminded how deeply, passionately and perfectly God loves each one of us. My heart was touched and my soul was stirred. Thank God for men such as Rubel, whom God uses so mightily in shaping our lives by His word.