C.S. Lewis once said, "After you read a new book, read an old one next."
Not long ago, I found an old book, but I doubt it would qualify as old in Lewis' mind, since this particular book is only 23 years old. But it looks old. The paperback binding is falling apart and the pages are stiff and brittle. The book is, "If I Were a Pastor," by the late W. McFerrin Stowe, a man who once was a pastor, but wrote it after he became a Bishop in the Methodist Church.
Each short chapter begins, "I would..." Some of things Stowe says he would do is try to love everybody, tell them about Jesus, do the hard jobs first, and strategize, not criticize.
One chapter I like is, "I would talk about life." The description is very life like:
"If I were a pastor, I would tell my people of life's refusal to stand still--of how success can end up as failure, and failure may be the royal road to success. As long as there is life, there is great hope, for no one need stay the way he is. Often a miracle takes a minute, but usually a whole lifetime.
"Ernest Hemingway, the superb storyteller, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. During the presentation, his novel The Old Man and the Sea was cited. It is the story of an old Cuban fisherman, who for 84 days had gone without a catch. On the 85th day he went out further, and a giant marlin took his deepest bait. Then comes the struggle of the fish and the fisherman, who with his small skiff was pulled night and day until on the third day the exhausted marlin surfaced and the old man, with hands torn and bleeding, his body aching with pain, won the battle. He lashed the 18 foot giant to the boat, raised his sail, and began the long trip back.
"Then the sharks came--first one, then a pair, then more. The old man fought them until he had nothing left to fight with. They tore the meat from the fish until, when shortly before daylight the fisherman landed in his harbor, all that was left of the magnificent catch was the skeleton. His victory ended in defeat.
"It was almost a autobiography of Hemingway himself, who seven years after receiving his Nobel Prize, committed suicide. His success ended in failure. When we look around, we see how often this happens--finally only the skeleton of some fine victory remaining.
"But it can be just the opposite. Jesus tried so desperately, but the crowds left him, and we hear him almost plaintively asking his disciples, "Will you also go away?" Then, in the Garden of Gethsemane, he pled that the cup might pass, but it didn't. Then he was arrested, tried, beaten, spit on, and crucified. No one looking on could have given any opinion of his effort except failure. But on the third day there was sunshine and proclamation, 'He lives.' Failure from human perspective had become the world's magnificent success. What happened? So much--but it was all wrapped up in his final statement, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit."
"I would tell my people about the old fisherman and the about the young carpenter--about the success and failure of our little enterprises and about how one never knows until God's final touch. I would tell them, but I would listen very carefully myself. As a pastor, I would need to understand this.