CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter – STAYING HUMBLE
Jimmy Moore, our pastor, told a Fred Craddock story last Sunday. Craddock was a magnificent narrative preacher, in an understated style. He was one of the major influencers of preaching from 1970 to 2000 or so, and continues to be an influence through his books, even after his death in 2015.
I heard Craddock preach in conferences from time to time, and read most of his books, but this was a new story to me.
While he was Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Wm. Sloane Coffin, the pastor at Riverside Church in NYC, the most prestigious pulpit in the country, asked Fred to come preach one Sunday when Coffin had to be away. He told him he could stay in his apartment.
On Sunday morning, though, when Fred went to the refrigerator, he found only a note that said, “There’s nothing to eat, but there’s breakfast at the church.”
Craddock thought that was nice. Breakfast had been arranged. Probably with the staff—Riverside was a huge church with a large staff—or perhaps with the members of the board. But when he got to the church, he just found a long line for breakfast. It was the homeless people of New York. Fred got in line, and got a tray with one section that he was pretty sure was eggs. He found a place at a table. He asked the man seated across from him why he was there.
“I was a stock broker, but I got to drinking. I lost everything. My daughter said I could live with her and her family if I gave up the bottle. That went okay for about six weeks, but then… here I am.”
The man asked Craddock what he did. The humble and unprepossessing Craddock did not want to brag, and say that he was the most popular professor of preaching in the country, and would even that morning preach in the most prestigious pulpit in the city, so he just said, “I’m a preacher.”
“Ah,” the man said, “the bottle gets even the best of us.”
John Robert McFarland
“Somebody suffers with every sermon. Either the preacher as s/he prepares, or the congregation as they listen.”