I have been around speeches my whole life. In sixth grade my class had a competition to see who gave the best speech. I didn’t get to participate with the rest of the class because I had to go to Florida for my grandpa’s funeral, but I gave my speech when I got back. I ended up in the final running for who would be in the speech competition. Thus began my journey of public speaking. In Seminary I began to define my speaking further, as soon I would be doing a lot of preaching. Sure, I would be asked to speak other places as well, but preaching was going to be my primary mode of public speaking. I have had the blessing of working with great pastors who speak & preach very well. I have watched their gifts and uniqueness’. At times I have been tempted to critique those who are speaking, but as I have matured, I am able to just appreciate public speaking for what it is.
Weddings are one of those places where we see public speaking by people who are usually not used to doing it. Most of the time, the pastor leading the ceremony has a good handle on things, but at the reception things get a little nuts. I have story after story of speeches that I remember, mostly because of their oddness combined with nervousness. I have very few that are memorable because of the great delivery and preparation.
This past Saturday, Mindy and I attended the wedding of a shy couple. Everyone knows they are shy, and knowing this about themselves, the couple limited the number of guests they invited. Not surprisingly, many of those around them are shy too. Because of his shyness, the best man had his wife read his speech. When it came time for the man of honor (a male “maid of honor”) to do his speech, we had no clue what was coming.
Let me tell you a little of the backstory so you get a deeper appreciation of what I mean. The man of honor was the bride’s brother. A few weeks before the wedding he had a stroke. He is a young guy, so a stroke was very unexpected. For awhile He couldn’t talk, and there were questions about whether he was even going to be able to attend the wedding. He went through physical therapy and, thankfully, he was able to attend. When he got up to speak, there were questions about how challenging this would be for him. The room grew silent, and he laid out a heartfelt tearjerker! He transported the audience back to his childhood and that of his sister, where he would ask her, “Do you want to talk, listen, or just go to sleep?” He told everyone about the secret language the two of them share, which only they know. He went on to say that his sister was “his person,” and he doesn’t have many people in this world. My eyes welled up listening to the heartfelt connection he was communicating. I could see how deep this relationship was, and being a relational guy, I was caught up in his words. The delivery didn’t matter. As I listened, I wondered how he was going to connect this to the groom, who was hearing the story of a brother and sister and their deep relationship. But before I could think too long about it, he flawlessly spoke about how great the groom was, how thrilled he was to watch the relationship between him and his sister develop, and how happy he was for his sister that she had found “her person” to be with forever.
In those few minutes, every wedding speech I had ever heard was trumped. Mindy and I made sure to tell him how great his words were. I, knowing that public speaking is challenging for many people, wanted him to leave that night knowing he had done a magnificent job. He had no clue who I was or that I preach every week, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to be the unknown in the crowd who told him his words were powerful.
No matter how technological we become as a generation, technology will never take away from public speaking. The words of a person can immediately transport us into a different place, thought, or emotion. They also can leave us desperate or bored. When you speak publicly often, you know that you can fall into any one of these categories, if not all of them, even in the same speech! That is why it is so scary for people to do. Some would rather die than to speak publicly.
I can’t imagine what it was like to hear Jesus speaking for the first time. Those that understood the words He was saying understood the power of proclamation. Jesus was the only person able to fulfill everything He said, while at the same time fully meaning every word that came out of His mouth. The Scripture lesson for today is called the Beatitudes. It is often hard to explain to people. The words are a powerful proclamation of what Jesus came to do. At first you might think He is talking to specific groups, but He is really talking to all groups. Jesus was proclaiming to us a promise to fill the hole of emptiness we feel in our lives. We take time today to look at this powerful speech from Jesus, given to people that needed to hear words of promise. Nothing has changed for us today, as we hear God’s Word for us as well.