Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Sunday, August 26, 2018


Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter… 

In the column for April 17, I told of my first continuing education experience for preachers, “The School of the Prophets,” for all Indiana Methodist clergy, at Depauw University, in 1957, when I was 20 years old and had already been preaching on a three-church charge for a year.

Ministry is a lonely profession. Most of us are solo pastors. Our colleagues may be miles away, and we see them seldom. That first School of the Prophets was a meaningful time for me, because it was when I first realized that even though most of the year I was out there on my own, nonetheless I had colleagues. I belonged to “the goodly fellowship of the prophets.”

That was impressed on me most by the hymn singing those 300 men, and one woman, did there at Depauw that August.

As I thought back to that event, as I do each August, and I heard those colleagues singing again, in my soul, it occurred to me that preachers should probably have a hymn of their own. So I wrote one… to the tune of R. Kelso Carter’s “Standing on the Promises.”

I don’t preach anymore, but I’m going to sing this each Sunday morning, to encourage those who do. You can join in, even if you are not a preacher, for if we all sing loudly enough, it may remind and encourage the pulpiteers in their sometimes lonely work…


Speaking forth the promises
Of truth and grace
Telling how Christ came
To save the whole damned race
Shouting at the devil
Standing face to face
Telling forth the promises of God

Preaching, teaching,
Bringing good news to the poor and frail
Preaching, teaching
Telling of God’s promises that do not fail

Shouting down temptations
That can stain the soul
Telling of the broken Christ
Who makes us whole
Bringing in God’s Kingdom
Is our earthly goal
Telling forth the promises of God


Standing in the gap
And pointing to the cross
In the boat with Jesus
Although tempest tossed
We shall join the saints
And bring hope to the lost
Telling forth the promises of God


Laying on the hands of healing
With a prayer
Handing out the bread and wine
In Christ we share
Pouring out baptismal water
With a dare
Telling forth the promises of God


John Robert McFarland

One of my favorite old preacher jokes: We sing “Standing on the Promises” while we’re just sitting on the premises.

Another one: A lot of activity in the church is like a hen trying to lay an egg on an escalator—a lot of moving around but not much getting down to business.

I heard both of those at The School of The Prophets in 1957.

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