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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 "Insignificant Greatness"

September 16, 2009

Amen, Amen, Amen! I am touched and moved by this message today! I hungered to hear more about the 92-year-old founder but realize the message and text had to be dealt with. Rev. Lewis truly takes us to that place of insignificance with precision and grace.

Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. recently preached at an installation of one of his sons in ministry. Using Jeremiah 3:15, "I will give you shepherds after my own heart," he mentioned 5 qualities of a pastor: Authenticity, Integrity, Humility, Anonymity, and Fidelity. Of the 5 qualities, Anonymity seems to resonate with this message--there is no desire to be known, but that God be known. Not unlike Paul deciding to know nothing but Jesus crucified or John the Baptist saying I must decrease in order that Christ may increase. This is a rare ambition in our times of the oft-asked question, "How am I doing in my 5-minutes of fame?"

Rev. Lewis is right in saying that this call is not for the faint of heart or ambitious. Insignificant Greatness is somewhat of a contradiction in terms, somewhat akin to Ed Freidman's notion of non-anxious presence. There is always the challenge that human insecurity under the guise of greed and ambition will rear its ugly head. I recall Al Pacino's line in the movie, "Devil's Advocate"-- "Aha! Vanity, my favorite sin!"

Thanks Rev. Lewis for a powerful sermonic smelling-salt back to the essence of call--to be heard without trying to be seen. Thanks Day1 for the lift!

--Ozzie Smith

 

UPDATE from the Rev. Dr. Billy Cox:

The insightful sermon, "Insignificant Greatness", by the Reverend Mr. Stephen Lewis, no doubt raises a lot of questions in the minds of most of us. I dare say not one among us has not thought at times of having our very own fifteen minutes of fame. I think this is how we are wired. It is our natural inclination.

However, as a long time pastor, I have noticed that the truly great people in the average congregation have not been the wealthy or the well to do. Often, they were just the opposite.

For example, as a student pastor during my years at the Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, I had a delightful couple in one of my five Methodist student churches in the mountains of North Georgia. They were anything but wealthy and well to do. In fact, the husband was a member of the local Baptist Church, but he attended our church along with his wife and son. Every spring time when he planted his vegetable garden, he would plant every other row for the pastor and his family of the little Methodist Church. Then, during harvest time, this unassuming Christian gentleman, would reward the pastor and his wife with boxes of fresh vegetables on their return, late Sunday night journey back to Atlanta and to campus.

This kind hearted and thoughtful gardener never achieved notoriety or greatness across his community or state, but he made a lasting impression upon a young Methodist pastor and his wife. In their minds eye, he had long discovered the meaning of insignificant greatness. It was his way of life.

Thanks, Mr. Chandler.

Thanks, Peter, to you and your talented staff.

--Billy Joe Cox
Louisville, Kentucky


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