Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.
Back when I was a Boy Scout, I took the Public Speaking Merit Badge facilitated by volunteers from Toastmasters International. (The Toastmasters is an educational organization dedicated to helping members improve their communication & public speaking skills.) We prepared & presented a 5-minute informative speech, a 5-minute inspirational speech, and had 30 seconds to prepare a variety of 3-minute extemporaneous speeches. The speeches were evaluated, tips were offered to help improve for the next time, and a horn was honked every time you said “Um” or “You know.”(18 honks in a 3-minute speech was a good indication that either I had a verbal tic that needed to be addressed or as my Scoutmaster teased, “a flock of geese was heading south for the winter.”)
As we prepared our speeches, we recognized the wisdom of Winston Churchill’s observation that “I shall give a long speech today, because I have not had time to prepare a short one.” In some instances, a long presentation is much easier to offer since there isn’t as much need to ration ideas & illustrations. (Amen! – Editor)
I’ve always appreciated the angst of the public speaker that was asked to present a speech on “Nature” to a women’s gardening club. As he considered this vast topic, he asked, “How much time is allotted?” The program coordinator cheerfully replied, “Take as much time as you like. We leave at 1:15.”
With this background, I’ve long been fascinated with famous (and not-so-famous) long-winded public speakers. President William Henry Harrison’s inaugural address in 1841 clocked in at 1 hour & 45 minutes. Unfortunately for him, he delivered the speech in the midst of a bitterly cold storm, caught pneumonia, and died. (His term lasted roughly 5 minutes for every word of his 8,445-word speech.)
Or then there was Teddy Roosevelt’s 90-minute campaign speech in 1912, which he insisted on delivering even after being shot in the chest. (Fortunately, the folded 50-page speech in his coat pocket plus his eyeglass case helped minimize the impact of the bullet. His opening line, “Ladies & Gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose,” would have to rank as one of the all-time-best attention-getters.)
Or there was Edward Everett’s 13,607-word speech that he delivered to a gathering of dignitaries at a cemetery in Pennsylvania. While this distinguished statesman & noted orator’s speech was carefully crafted with details of the battle, comparisons to famous Greek conquests, & held his audience spellbound, he was overshadowed by the following speaker’s 2 minute presentation that was written on the back of an envelope on the train from Washington, D.C. to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. (Everett graciously congratulated President Lincoln on his speech, saying “that I came near to the central idea of the occasion in 2 hours, which you did in 2 minutes.)
Finally, there is today’s story of Paul’s lengthy diatribe. As I read Luke’s description of the event, I initially thought he might have been having a little fun at Paul’s wordiness. Only Paul could have a discussion interrupted at midnight by a young man falling nearly to his death and still be able to continue talking until dawn. However, upon review, I think Luke is actually admiring Paul’s passion for sharing the Gospel. This wasn’t an interminable monologue monopolized by Paul; rather this would have been much like a small-group discussion with Paul answering questions that were being thrown at him left & right. Paul, realizing his time with this tiny congregation was terribly short, wants to pack in as much as possible. I would submit that Luke shares this story to offer his readers a glimpse of Paul’s incredible love for those longing to become believers in Christ.
So, what might this little vignette offer for us today? Perhaps, we need to consider our own faith story. Maybe we could jot down a few ideas of what our life was like before Christ, how we came to believe, and what has our life been like since becoming a believer. Recognizing that a faith story that begins with “When I was in the womb…” is probably going to be a bit long in today’s culture, we might instead opt to tackle the challenge of relating our faithwalk as succinctly as possible. (Hello, pot? This is kettle. – Editor.)
The Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared,” is applicable here. We never know when someone might ask about our faith journey, so let’s begin to organize our thoughts today. You know, … (HONK! – Editor.)
Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.