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The Intersection Of A Future Sermon Series And A Former Senior Thesis

Here’s a window into November at Good Shepherd: we are calling the sermon series that month The Trust Factor and it will spend four weeks plumbing the depths of two bible verses. Huh?

When those two verses are Proverbs 3:5-6, you see why so few words are worthy of so much attention:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; think of him in all your ways and he will make your paths straight.

Those are the first verses I ever memorized and in the 40 or so years since I have read them, declared them, sung them, and meditated on them. And now, for a month straight, I’ll get to preach on them. (Yes, this is how I work best; it’s mid-September and I’m working on sermons for mid-November.)

Anyway in the course of working on those verses — and in particular the first phrase of trust in the Lord — I kept coming back to a line I learned in a college English class. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “trust thyself; every heart vibrates to that same iron string” from his essay “Self-Reliance.” I even jotted it down on my notepad and wondered, “why is that sentence so prominent in my brainstorming? I don’t even like Emerson!”

And then I remembered. That quote was the opening sentence of the senior thesis I wrote in order to graduate from college in 1984. I got home Tuesday night, pulled the 122 page, hardcover bound document off the shelf to check myself and sure enough: there it was. And here it is:

The thesis wasn’t about Ralph Waldo Emerson, however. It was instead about how the fiction of Flannery O’Connor masterfully and grotesquely skewered his philosophy, her characters living out the myriad ways that self-reliance leads to self-delusion and ultimately to self-destruction.

Will November’s sermons mention either Flannery O’Connor or Ralph Waldo Emerson? Probably not. Will they communicate in homiletic form what O’Connor does in narrative fashion and, more importantly, what Proverbs does so … proverbially? That trusting yourself is the height of folly while in trusting in the Lord you’ll discover the breadth of wisdom?

You might be able to answer that one for yourself. But I’d prefer you check it out in November in person to find out.

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