I just finished reading Fred Craddock's memoir entitled: Preaching from Memory to Hope. What an enjoyable read. If you're not familiar with Craddock, I might encourage you to pick up The Cherry Log Sermons. It's a fun way to get to know one of the modern-day greats.
Not only is Fred Craddock a world-class New Testament scholar, he is rivaled only by Garrison Keillor as a story-teller–despite a squeaky, thin voice. He taught me so much about the importance of choosing good words and how you can illustrate with words without having to illustrate with a story. But, when you tell a story, really tell it…and make sure it applies to what the text is doing.
I remembered that I had run a feature on my old blog called, "The
Preaching Hall of Fame." Craddock was my first contemporary inductee. I have reprinted that post from 2006 here. I hope you enjoy Craddock's words.
Now for my first contemporary induction. To keep track, so far, John
Chrysostom and Jonathan Edwards have been inducted. Now, it's time for
They just don't make 'em any better than Fred
Craddock–the grandfatherly story-teller extraordinaire. I was blessed
to have breakfast with Craddock once when I was in graduate school. I
was impressed with his deep humility and willingness to speak with me
as a peer–though I was nowhere close to such.
preachers can bring life to lifeless texts. Or, I should say, they help
us see what is living in texts that look dead from the outside. Below
is an excerpt of a sermon entitled, "When the Roll is Called Down Here"
— based on Paul's goodbye list of names from Romans 16. Enjoy!
Our fellowship is a fellowship of names.
you write these words? “I thank my God for all my remembrance of you.”
Then write a name. You choose the name. You remember the name. Write
another name and another name and another name.
Before I married
and was serving a little mission in the Appalachians, I moved down to a
little village on Watts Barr Lake between Chattanooga and Knoxville. It
was the custom in that church at Easter to have a baptismal service,
and it was held in Watts Barr Lake on Easter evening at sundown.
on a sand bar, I stood with the candidates for baptism. After they were
immersed, the candidates moved out of the water, changed clothes in
little booths constructed of hanging blankets, then went to the fire in
Last of all, I went over, changed clothes, and went
to the fire where the little congregation was gathered, singing and
Once we were all around the fire, (this is the
ritual of the tradition) Glen Hickey, always Glen, introduced the new
people. He gave their names, where they lived and their work. And then
the rest of us formed a circle around them while they stayed warm at
“My name is …If you ever need anybody to chop wood, call on me.”
“My name is …If you ever need anybody to babysit, call on me.”
“My name is …If you ever need anybody to repair your house, call on me.”
“My name is …If you ever need anybody to sit with the sick, call on me.”
“My name is …If you ever need a car to go to town, call on me.”
And around the circle we went.
ate. Then we had a square dance. Finally at a time they knew (but I
didn’t know), Percy Miller, with thumbs in his bibbed overalls, would
stand up and say, “It’s time to go.” And everybody left. He lingered
behind, and with his big shoe kicked sand over the dying fire.
my first experience of that, he saw me standing there, still. He looked
at me and said, “Craddock, folks don’t ever get any closer than this.”
that little community, they have a name for that. I’ve heard it in
other communities too. In that community, their name for that kind of
ritual is “church.” They call that “church.”
Have you written
any names? Do you have a name or two? Keep the list. Keep the list
because to you it’s not a list. In fact, the next time you move, keep
that. Even if you have to leave your car, and your library, and your
furniture, and your typewriter, and everything else, take that list
with you. In fact, when your ministry has ended and you leave the
earth, take it with you.
I know. I know. When you get to the
gate, St. Peter’s going to say, “Now, look, you went into the world
with nothing. You’re going to come out of it with nothing. Now, what do
you have there?”
“Well, it’s just some names.”
“Well, let me see it.”
“Well, now this is just some names of folk I worked with and folk who helped me.”
“Well, let me see it.”
“Well, this is just a group of people that, if it weren’t for them I’d have never made it.”
“I want to see it.”
you give it to him, and he smiles. He says, “I know all of them. In
fact, on my way here to the gate I passed them. They were painting a
great big sign to hang over the street, and it said, ‘Welcome home.’”