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Lee Koontz: Simple sermons can change lives
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My first sermon wasn’t very remarkable or memorable.

I can’t remember the title, the illustrations I used or even the scripture reading it came from.

I was probably around 20, and I have a vague recollection of being nervous, of standing in a small chapel at a retreat center in Colorado, and of perhaps 15-20 people listening in supportive fashion.

What I do remember is how encouraging they were after worship. I recall how each handshake, hug and word of encouragement made me feel surrounded by a spirit of genuine fellowship and love.

No, I can’t remember what I said. But I remember what those friends did, and perhaps that is more important and meaningful.

Was I preaching to them? Or were they preaching to me?

I’ve preached many, many sermons since then. I love being entrusted to lead the community of faith in interpreting Holy Scripture and articulating what we believe God is saying to us at this moment. It’s an awesome and humbling responsibility.

Even more awesome and more humbling are the small acts of love, care and support I see surrounding the sermons. They extend through the hours on a Sunday afternoon and spill into Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On and on it goes. I confess these moments of honest and genuine Christian love for each other and for the community are more memorable and important to me than anything I’ve said.

Perhaps this is the way of the Christian life. It’s certainly about what is said, preached and heard. But just as important and as memorable is what we do and how we treat one another.

Oftentimes I think we who follow Jesus gravitate toward the really big things, the heavy and important and possibly even flashy things that get us excited. I’m including myself here, as I know how much I love to preach on those weighty and larger-than-life sounding things such as reconciliation, transformation and salvation.

I’m not saying those things are meaningless — they aren’t! — or preaching them is unimportant — it’s not!. But I do wonder if sometimes our attention to those big, lofty, high-minded and high-spirited ideals leads us to miss the sermons being preached all around us, every single day.

Could someone be preaching a sermon to you today? Not with words, but with simple acts of kindness, acceptance, and love?  Could it be those small and simple sermons do more to actually transform the world than anything else? Might you have an opportunity to preach to someone, not with words, but with a simple smile, hug or a compassionate gesture?

St. Francis of Assisi once said, “It’s no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

What if each day you’ve been given is an opportunity to preach, love and care for others simply and faithfully? What if each step you take is a sermon that someone else might remember for years to come?      

The Rev. Lee Koontz is the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville. He can be reached at

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