Friday, August 26, 2005

Tales from Tom: Middle Names

When I mentioned the Montreat Youth Conferences the other day, I mentioned a series of sermons, delivered at the conference in 1989 by Rev. Tom Are, Jr., that were particularly influential. One of the features of these sermons that made them so powerful was the preacher's use of stories to illustrate his points. There is a longstanding debate about how much one should use such illustrations in a sermon, and how much one should just "teach from the text." It is commonly argued that if the illustration is too good, the story will be remembered, but the actual point of the sermon might be missed!

I'm sympathetic to these concerns. However, at least in my case, it was the often humorous stories that got my attention. But, as I've listened to these sermons many, many times over the past 15+ years, I can safely say that the main points of the sermons have not been lost on me. In many ways, they have helped shaped my own theology. While I may not believe exactly the same way as Rev. Are in all respects, I make a point of it only because I believe that no two people agree with each other in all respects.

So, in the interest of "story-sharing," I will dedicate Fridays for the next month or so to sharing some of the stories from Rev. Are's sermons. When I share a story from a particular sermon, I will post the full text of that sermon, which Rev. Are has granted me permission to transcribe for this blog, on a linked page, which you may find to the right. The page is available right now, and I'll have the first sermon up by the end of the day. If a story "gets your attention," you can check out the full context by reading the sermon, which will also have other stories within it!

Without further ado, I now share what Rev. Are has to say about middle names, given during a sermon on baptism:

Parents do mean stuff to you with your middle name. I think they’re trying to get back at you for all that pain you just caused your mom, you know? My wife, she’s a nurse, I know how this stuff works. They go in there, you know? You pop out, {pop!}, there you are. The nurse kinda wipes you off so that you don’t look quite so much like a squirrel. And then they walk over, and they show you to Mom. Mom’s still sweatin’, she’s still breathin’, she’s still cryin’, she’s still screamin’, and they say “Darlin’, what would you like to name it?”

And she says “Name it ‘Helmut’!”

And she says “Darling, this one’s a girl!”

“I don’t care! ‘Helmut’!”

It’s the medical staff, they take care, they give you a real name like “Susie,” or “Linda,” or “Frank,” or something. If it was left up to parent’s we’d all have names like that! And then when you grow up, they try to get out of it. They tell you that it’s an old family name, right? They tell you, “you know your great-uncle Helmut on your father’s side.” That guy never lived! He wasn’t there! And you ask anybody “Oh, he was really a nice boy, Uncle Helmut, yeah.” He didn’t live! They try to cover their tracks!

I remember the first time, or the first time that I remember my full name in public. It was first grade. You know how first grade teachers are, they’re kinda goofy anyway. I walked into my first grade class. I was nervous! I walked into my first grade class, and my teacher, she leans over, with big glasses, you know? Well, she leans over, got the pencil stuck in the back of her head. And she said “And what is your name, Son?”

I said “My name is Tommy Are,” because I was Tommy back then, you know, “Tommy Are.”

She said, “Well, that’s just fine.” I was real relieved to hear that, it was the only name I had!

I found my friends Bobby Armstrong and Danny Martin sitting over there, so I went and I sat with them. And as soon as I got comfortable, she said “Now when I call out your name, I want you to come have a seat.” She’s getting ready to do that seating chart thing, you know?

And she said “Robert Herbert Armstrong.”

We didn’t have any “Robert Herbert Armstrong” in our class! We were saying, “Who’s the new kid?”

All of a sudden, Bobby Armstrong stood up. Danny Martin said “Herbert! What kind of a name is ‘Herbert,’ man?” I was dying laughing. I was loving it!

And then exploding from the front of the room: “Thomas…… Lorraine…. (at this point the auditorium bursts into laughter, which lasts for over 10 full seconds) Are.”

I’m saying “she didn’t do, what I just think she did.”

Danny Martin said “Lorraine! That’s a girl’s name, man!”

Frank Campbell says “My grandmama’s named Lorraine, man!”

For six weeks, they’re calling me “Lori” for short. Except Frank Campbell, he just called me “Grandmama!”

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