Short notice was forcing a pastor to miss the next day’s Sunday morning service, and he needed to find someone to fill the pulpit for him. He called several of his preacher friends, but all of them were already committed to other engagements. Next, he asked his church’s deacons and Sunday School teachers if they would be willing to do the job, but not one of them felt comfortable about standing in a pulpit and speaking to a congregation.
Finally, as an absolute last resort, the pastor asked a church member named John if he would be willing to give it a try. John was a devout Christian who never missed a church service, but he was a plainspoken man of precious few words. Despite his lack of oratory skills, however, he agreed to the assignment out of nothing else but a desire to do something for Jesus.
John entered the pulpit the next morning and began his remarks by saying, “If I was a real preacher, I would just use one passage as a text. But since I’m new to this business, I’ll have to use three passages. I hope that’s okay.”
John then had the congregation turn to 1 John 1:7 and promptly read that verse: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sins.” After finishing his reading, John paused for a moment, looked out over the congregation, and said, “That’s my sins away.”
Right on the heels of making that brief application, John immediately had the congregation turn to his second passage, Philippians 4:6. The people scarcely had time to locate the verse before John started reading it: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” John again paused for second after he finished reading, again looked out over the congregation, and said, “That’s my worries away.”
No sooner was that sentence completed than John had the congregation turn to his final passage, 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The people frantically raced to find the verse because by now they had figured out that John would be reading it in a matter of seconds. Sure enough, as soon as John himself had located the verse, he started reading it: “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Following that reading came the familiar short pause again and the intentional look at the congregation. Then John said in his matter-of-fact tone, “That’s myself away.”
With that, he asked the congregation to stand and called upon the chairman of the deacons to lead the closing prayer. The chairman of the deacons obliged, and the “Amen” at the end of his prayer officially closed what was probably history’s shortest church service. John had surely filled the pulpit, and he had filled it in fine fashion by giving the congregation three texts to consider and three truths to take out the door and apply to real life. Even more than that, not one member of that congregation would ever forget the simple sermon they heard that day.