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The Rev. Dr. Ozzie E. Smith, Jr. The Rev. Dr. Ozzie E. Smith, Jr.

The Rev. Dr. Ozzie E. Smith, Jr., is pastor of Covenant United Church of Christ, South Holland, IL. He is also a trustee of the Alliance for Christian Media.

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Covenant United Church of Christ, South Holland, IL

Dr. Ozzie Smith on "Neither Heaven Nor Hell"

May 06, 2009

Rev. Anthony again renders a fresh and crisp message on Jesus' vine parable. That parable can sometimes breed hellfire and brimstone tirades about pruning and what will happen if we don't behave. Although it is neither heaven or hell, it might also be heard as a consideration of both/and.

The poem at the end is a poignant reminder that we should not get too turned-up or turned-down in the color of either extreme. Then we might become shrill and knowing as God's agents privy to "special knowledge."

Rev. Anthony's illustration of dialing-up the TV color bar creatively tugs us to see what happens when "we" or our biases get twisted into the message. Perhaps remembering that these words come from the loving lips of Jesus can guide us to make sermonic statements of truth that can be trusted and tried.

This message called to mind prunings of prophetic certainty that have scared me into right-doing--only for a time. Rev. Anthony challenges us to preach with care in a world that has grown callous from prideful prophetic proof-texting. Perhaps there was a time when negative/fear- mongering preaching worked, but this message gives us another way of considering how the story might be heard when given what Don Wardlaw calls space for grace. It brings to mind a song recorded by the late James Cleveland in 1975 entitled, "Don't Forget to Remember Where All Your Blessings Come From."

We are invited by this message to more than notice that the source of our real-time branch activity is Jesus. Thanks, Rev. Anthony, for another thought-provoking Word! Thanks Day1 for the lift!

--Ozzie Smith


UPDATE: Response from Billy Cox:

At my advanced age, this sermon by the Reverend Mr. Ben Anthony suggests to me, the best thing to do is to hang on and do one's very best in this life and hope for the best when the lights go out. Thanks, Ben, and thanks, Peter and Day1. Your provocative and inspiring information never ceases.
--Billy Cox
Louisville, Kentucky

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