On the advantage of starting over

John Wesley, the eighteenth-century Anglican priest who started the revival movement that became The United Methodist Church, wrote that every seven years he burned all his sermons, “for it is a shame if I cannot write better sermons now than I did seven years ago.” Even far less than seven years ago I find things I’ve written that I could write better today, and though I’ve never purged my files so intentionally as Wesley did his, I’m grateful at finding so little of my early work still around. So a few keystrokes and a couple of mouse clicks later, my old sermons are archived and out of sight, every one of them (I don’t know why I’ve kept them at all), and a new series, “Ruminations of a Pastor,” is begun.

I feel liberated, not from all the voices around me today that clamor for my attention and even my servitude but from the voices of my past that insinuated themselves into my sermons then and won’t stop their yammering now, and from the voices of who I was then, at any particular moment of my life, and even from the voice of the God I knew then and who seems so very different from the God I barely if at all know today. Maybe in silencing, or at least muffling, those voices I might catch a fresh whisper of the “sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19:12) into which I yearn to lean.

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