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John Claypool: My favorite (writing) preacher

Here’s a miscellany of stuff about the best (in my view) ‘writing preacher’ / ‘preaching writer’ in the latter half of the 20th Century.

Unfortunately he’s not well known outside progressive mainline circles in the U.S. (conversely W E Sangster isn’t well-known in the U.S.). Pity.

~~~

JOHN CLAYPOOL 

Once a month, while pastoring a busy church in the 1970s/1980s, I’d receive John Claypool’s printed sermons in the mail. Invariably the rest of the morning was spent devouring them. He was – still is – the best ‘writing preacher’ I’ve ever read. If there is one spot on this planet where I’d choose to spend a six-month study-sabbatical, it would be in a quiet room at the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, reading their collection of his sermons.

John Claypool didn’t fit easily into the conservative milieu of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was regarded with some suspicion as one of those ‘Moderates’ or ‘Cooperatives’ who inhabited the cutting edge of theological enquiry and socio-political issues – especially racism.

John Claypool was ordained to the Baptist ministry in 1953 and pastored five Southern Baptist churches – in Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, and Mississippi. Tiring eventually of the hard-line fundamentalism of his denomination, he left, and was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1986, ministering as Rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama, for nearly fourteen years. He retired from full-time parish ministry in 2000 and then served as Professor of Preaching at McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia…

Why ‘writing preacher’? I’ve met John Claypool, and heard him preach. His preaching-style was thoughtful, and his vocal presentation a bit ‘dreamy’. But his words and ideas-about-ideas, if you ‘hung in there,’ were often mind-blowing.

But John Claypool was not simply an intellectual. His brilliant book The Preaching Event (the 1979 Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale Divinity School) discusses the what, why, how and when of preaching. The preacher, he says, is a reconciler, who seeks to re-establish trust at the deepest level. We are ‘gift-givers’: too often preaching can fulfil our own needs for love and status. We are witnesses: making available our own grapplings with woundedness to help others in their pain and grief.

Claypool approves of  P. T. Forsyth’s distinction in his 1907 Beecher Lectures, between ‘oratory’ and Christian preaching. The orator’s goal is to “[get] people to do certain things… to motivate individuals and arouse them to act in a certain way. However the goal of the Christian preacher is very different – it’s to facilitate a spirit of openness, trust, at-one-ment’ between the creature and Creator. How was/is this trust broken? Through human beings’ suspicions about God’s love for them. How is it restored? Ultimately, as John Killinger once expressed it: ‘Jesus was God’s answer to the problem of a bad reputation.” And, Claypool adds, the miracle of the Easter event is central here. Easter is all about “the patience and mercy of a God who would still have hope for the kind of creatures who had treated his only begotten Son that way. Three days after human beings killed him in cold blood, the word was out, not only that he was alive again, but that he was saying… ‘Let’s keep on keeping on. Let’s get back to the task of dispelling suspicion and reconciling the world back to the Father…’.”

The Christian preacher thus has an awesome task to perform. It’s not simply about moving people around at the level of behavior, but participating ‘in the miracle of primal reconciliation.’

His magnificent conclusion: “Why do we preach? Not to get something for ourselves, out of need-love, but to give something of ourselves in gift-love. How do we do it? By making available as witnesses what we have learned from our own woundedness for the woundedness of others. When do we do this? At times and in ways that are appropriate to another’s growing as a farmer nurtures a crop. To do this is to participate in the extension of the gospel into our own time. Could anything be a higher human joy? I think not! Let us go, then, under the mercy, with the great story, and in abundant hope…”

~~  

In a memorable interview with Claypool conducted by The Wittenburg Door magazine (April/May 1978) he revealed the core issues which made him the person he turned out to be. His spiritual awakening happened in College when he read C S Lewis, and with a “real flash of insight saw that Jesus was the clue to ultimate reality”.

Why did he enter pastoral ministry? Among other reasons, to ‘earn the blessing of his mother’. When this realization hit him later, he developed a ‘confessional’ preaching style – which, he would tell students in his seminary classes, can be a subtle form of exhibitionism if you’re not careful.

He had a close friendship with Martin Luther King Jr. (a ‘first-rate thinker’) and was active in the civil rights movement. Once he was in a coffee shop with Dr. King, and a journalist took a picture of the two of them. When that photo appeared in the Louisville Courier, he and his family received hate calls and mail, crosses were burned in their front yard, and his children were threatened. When he championed the idea that a Nigerian seminary student (‘that our missionaries had converted’) should be permitted to attend their church ‘a lot of people left and the money dropped off’.

Another significant event was his surprising resignation – after only 5 ½ years – from a church of 5,000 and 11 staff, to go to a much smaller pastorate. Why would a gifted preacher step down the rungs of the ‘success ladder’ and do such a thing? Simple: he was tired, and for him ‘fatigue became a moral category’. He was challenged by Gail Sheehy’s book  Passages about the dangers in mid-life of over-investment in work and under-investment in relationships. Conducting hundreds of funerals of people he didn’t know (and hoping he pronounced the names right) became wearing. “A major mistake,” he confessed later, was that “I didn’t call in the community. I acted in isolation: there were surely many options in any situation that address the panicky fear of a tired person”. So he negotiated a paid month off before starting in his new pastoral role to study at Yale Divinity School. Slowly he was re-invigorated, and learned that “God is the God of fertilizer: God can take dung and bring things of beauty out of it”.

~~

John Claypool’s most ‘wounding’ event was the death of their little eight-year-old girl, Laura Lue, diagnosed with acute leukemia. She lived only eighteen months and ten days after that first shocking news was given to her parents. Tracks of a Fellow Struggler, his first and probably his best-known book, comprises sermons he preached during that time, together with a final chapter ‘Learning to Handle Grief’, preached three and a half years later. It’s the book I’ve shared with many parishioners who’ve had to journey ‘into the valley of the shadow of death’ with a loved one.

He often told this story about his way of handling grief: 

“We did not have a washing machine during World War II and gas was rationed. It was going to be a real challenge. At about that time one of my father’s younger business associates was suddenly drafted into the service. My father offered to let them store their furniture in our basement while he had to be away. Well it so happened that they had an old grey Bendix washing machine. And as they were moving in, my father suggested that maybe they would let us use their machine in lieu of our giving them some storage space.

“The next question became, who is going to become the wash person in the family?

“In that mysterious way that families assign roles, I became the wash person at the grand old age of eleven! For the next four years, I had a ritual every Tuesday and every Friday. I would come home from school, gather up the wash, take it down into the basement, fill the old Bendix with water, put in the clothes, add some soap, and then watch as the plunger would make all kinds of configurations of suds. It had a hand roller to wring the washed clothes out and I can remember as a child trying to stick my finger between those rollers to see how far I could go without it cutting off circulation. In other words, I became affectionately bonded to that old mechanism in those four years.

“When the war was over my father’s friend came back. One day when I was at school, a truck came to our basement, took out all of their things, including the washing machine, and nobody had told me. It was a Tuesday. I came home and gathered up the clothes, went down in the basement, and to this day I can remember my sense of horror as I saw that empty space where the old Bendix had been. I put down the clothes and rushed back upstairs and announced loudly, ‘We have been robbed! Somebody stole our washing machine!’

“My mother, who was not only a musician but also a wise human being, sat me down and said, ‘John, you’ve obviously forgotten how that machine got to be in our basement. It never did belong to us. That we ever got to use it was incredibly good fortune.’ And then she said, ‘If something is a possession and it’s taken away, you have a right to be angry. But if something is a gift and it’s taken, you use that moment to give thanks that it was ever given at all.’

“That was the memory that resurfaced for me the night Laura Lou died. [That little girl] was in my life the way the old Bendix washing machine was in our basement and I heard the voice of my mother say, ‘If it is a gift and it’s taken, you use that occasion to give thanks that it was ever given at all.’ And that memory helped me to decide that night to take the road of gratitude out of the valley of sorrow. The Twenty-third Psalm speaks of walking through the valley of the shadow of grief. I would suggest to you that the road of gratitude is the best way I know not to get bogged down in our grief but to make our way through it.

“Life is gift, birth is windfall, and all, all is grace. And I give you the gift that was given to me and I pray that somehow the sense of life as gift will enable you to make a brave and hopeful journey, not just into the valley of the shadow of bereavement, but through that valley to the light on the other side. May your journey be a brave one. Amen.”

~~

John Claypool wrote eleven books, and in 2008 a new collection of his sermons on the twelve disciples, entitled The First to Follow, edited by his widow Ann Wilkinson Claypool, was published.

He died on September 3, 2005 aged 74. In a eulogy Kirby Godsey, President of Mercer University, said, “John Claypool touched our souls. Amidst our wounds and our triumphs, his voice became for us the voice of God – a special measure of grace and with unfettered gentleness. John’s presence in our lives and our histories is more than mere death can ever take away. He will continue to walk among us, giving light to our steps, wisdom for our hearts, and hope to our souls. John Claypool’s life and presence and teaching were profound and enduring gifts to the entire Mercer University community.”

~~

Many of John Claypool’s sermons are available online, including a few on our John Mark Ministries website (jmm.org.au). I have borrowed some ideas from his notable homily on Ananias and Sapphira and adapted them here: http://www.jmm.org.au/articles/2400.htm .

Rowland Croucher

 

~~~~~~~

MORE:

http://day1.org/193-the_rev_dr_john_claypool :

The Rev. Dr. John R. Claypool, IV

The Episcopal Church

The Rev. Dr. John Rowan Claypool IV was well known and much loved as a minister, preacher, theologian, author, and teacher. He died September 3, 2005 at age 74.

He was born in Franklin, Kentucky, and reared in Nashville, Tennessee, receiving his undergraduate degree in philosophy from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. His theological education continued at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, in Austin, Texas. Dr. Claypool earned a doctorate in theology and has received six honorary degrees.

The Rev. Dr. Claypool was ordained to the ministry in 1953 and served as pastor of five Baptist churches in Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, and Mississippi. Ordained an Episcopal priest in 1986, he served as Rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Chuurch in Birmingham, Alabama, for nearly fourteen years. He retired from full-time parish ministry in 2000 and then served as Professor of Preaching at McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia.

During that period, he served part-time as theologian-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans, Louisiana, from 2001 to 2003, and has been an associate priest at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta since 2003.

John Claypool, a prolific writer, was the author of 11 books, including The Hopeful Heart, God the Ingenious Alchemist, and Tracks of a Fellow Struggler. He was a sought after speaker. The Very Rev. Harry Pritchett remembered, “He was always changing-growing, open to new possibilities. Life was a journey to John and it was my great privilege to be his friend during this part of the trip.” Kirby Godsey, President of Mercer University, said, “John Claypool touched our souls. Amidst our wounds and our triumphs, his voice became for us the voice of God. He embraced the McAfee School of Theology, his students and his colleagues with a special measure of grace and with unfettered gentleness. John’s presence in our lives and our histories is more than mere death can ever take away. He will continue to walk among us, giving light to our steps, wisdom for our hearts, and hope to our souls. John Claypool’s life and presence and teaching were profound and enduring gifts to the entire Mercer University community.”

In 2008 a new collection of his sermons on the twelve disciples, entitled The First to Follow, edited by his widow Ann Wilkinson Claypool, was published by Morehouse.

(Check that website for some transcripts of Claypool’s preaching, and put his name into the Search facility for jmm.org.au for more)…

~~

John R. Claypool IV (born December 15, 1930 in Franklin, Kentucky – died September 3, 2005) was rector at St Luke’s Episcopal Church inMountain Brook from 1987 to 2000 and an author of several books.

Claypool was brought up in Nashville attending the Southern Baptist Church. He earned an associates degree and Mars Hill College in North Carolina, an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Baylor University in Waco, Texas and a doctorate of theology in 1959 from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

He was ordained at Belmont Heights Baptist Church in Nashville in 1953. He pastored Gilead Baptist Church in Madison County, Kentucky from 1952 to 1955, the First Baptist Church of Hartsville, Tennessee from 1957 to 1959, Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky from 1960 to 1971, Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas from 1971 to 1976, and Northminster Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi from 1976 to 1981. He was invited to present the Lyman Beecher lectures in theology at Yale Divinity School in 1979.

After that he attended the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. In 1986 Claypool was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church. He served as Rector of St Luke’s for fourteen years before retirning in 2000. He worked as a Professor of Homiletics at the Mercer University School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia and as a part-time theologian-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans, Louisiana and a Priest Associate at All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta.

Claypool died in 2005, survived by his wife, Ann, three children and two grandchildren. The death of one of his daughters from leukemia inspired his first book, Tracks of a Fellow Struggler, now considered a classic on dealing with grief through spirituality.

[edit]Publications

  • Claypool, John R. (1974) Tracks of a Fellow Struggler: How to Handle Grief. Word Books. ISBN 0876808631
  • Claypool, John R. (1977) Stages. Word Books. reprinted as The Saga of Life: Living Gracefully Through All of the Stages (2003) Church Publications Inc. ISBN 0914520431
  • Claypool, John R. (1980) The Preaching Event. Word Books. ISBN 0849901316
  • Claypool, John R. (1982) The Light Within You. Word Books. ISBN 0849902738
  • Claypool, John R. (1983) Opening Blind Eyes. Abingdon Press. ISBN 0687292131
  • Claypool, John R. (1985) Glad Reunion: Meeting Ourselves in the Lives of Bible Men and Women. Word Books. ISBN 0849904692
  • Claypool, John R. (1994) God is an Amateur. Forward Movement Publications. ISBN 0880281472
  • Claypool, John R. (1994) Stories Jesus Still Tells: The Parables. McCracken Press. ISBN 1561011851
  • Claypool, John R. (1999) Mending the Heart. Cowley Publications. ISBN 1561011657
  • Claypool, John R. (2003) The Hopeful Heart. Morehouse Publishing. ISBN 0819219541
  • Claypool, John R. (2005) God, the Ingenious Alchemist: Transforming Tragedy Into Blessing. Morehouse Publishing. ISBN 0819221805
  • Claypool, John R. (2008) The First to Follow: The Apostles of Jesus. Morehouse Publishing. ISBN 0819222968

[edit]References

  • Garrison, Greg (May 3, 2008) “Claypool’s final book released.” Birmingham News

[edit]External links

http://www.bhamwiki.com/w/John_Claypool

(Bhamwiki is a Wikipedia-type site, centred on events/ people in the Birmingham, Alabama area).

~~

I met John Claypool just once: between meetings of the Baptist World Alliance in Stockholm, Sweden in 1975. He was then still a (‘Moderate’/’Cooperative’ – as distinct from ‘Conservative’/ ‘Fundamentalist’) Southern Baptist. In the half-hour we spent together I remember his earnest enquiry about how we in Australian Baptist Churches were progressing on the issue of releasing women for ministries of pastoral leadership.

~~

 

BY ROWLAND CROUCHER AND OTHERS ⋅ MAY 14, 2007 ⋅ POST A COMMENT

Note from Rowland: John Claypool has, for a couple of decades, been my favorite preacher. You’ll note that several of his sermons are on this website. I’ve only learned today from a clergy-friend that he died nearly two years ago. Watch my blog on Interesting People for my own tribute to this great preacher (http://1monthtomeet30interestingpeople.blogspot.com/ )

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“Dr. John R. Claypool dies at 74″

/posted September 5, 2005/

One of most beloved preachers on The Protestant Hour and DAY 1 and a preacher renowned for his loving dedication to the ministry of the word died September 3. The Rev. Dr. John Rowan Claypool was well known as a minister, preacher, author, and teacher. Our deepest sympathies go out to his wife, Ann, and family.

Here is the obituary from the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

JOHN ROWAN CLAYPOOL, IV Well-known and much-beloved theologian, John Rowan Claypool IV, age 74, died of complications from treatment for multiple myeloma on Saturday, September 3, 2005 at The Dekalb Medical Center Decatur, Georgia. He was born in Franklin, Kentucky, and reared in Nashville, Tennessee, receiving his undergraduate degree in philosophy from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. His theological education continued at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, in Austin, Texas. Dr. Claypool earned a doctorate in theology and has received six honorary degrees, The Rev. Dr. Claypool was ordained to the ministry in 1953 and served as pastor of five Baptist churches in Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, and Mississippi. Ordained an Episcopal priest in 1986, he served as Rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Chuurch in Birmingham, Alabama, for nearly fourteen years. He retired from full-time parish ministry in 2000 and had since served as Professor of Preaching at McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia. During that period, he served part-time as theologian-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans, Louisiana, from 2001 to 2003 and has been an associate priest at All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta since 2003. John Claypool, a prolific writer, was the author of eleven books and a sought after speaker, who was nationally respected. The Very Rev. Harry Pritchett remembered, “He was always changing-growing, open to new possibilities. Life was a journey to John and it was my great privilege to be his friend during this part of the trip.” Kirby Godsey, President of Mercer University, said, “John Claypool touched our souls.” Amidst our wounds and our triumphs, his voice became for us the voice of God. He embraced the McAfee School of Theology, his students and his colleagues with a special measure of grace and with unfettered gentleness. John’s presence in our lives and our histories is more than mere death can ever take away. He will continue to walk among us, giving light to our steps, wisdom for our hearts, and hope to our souls. John Claypool’s life and presence and teaching were profound and enduring gifts to the entire Mercer University community. John Rowan Claypool is survived by his wife, Ann Wilkinson Scheyd Claypool; a son, John Rowan Claypool, V; one grandson, John Rowan Claypool, VI; and two step children, Laura Crawford Williams and Charles Tarleton Williams, III. Memorial gifts to honor the life of John Claypool may be sent to McAfee School of Theology, 3001 Mercer University Drive, Atlanta, GA 30341-4115; St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 3736 Montrose Road, Birmingham, AL 35213; or All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 635 West Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA. 30308-1925. Visitation will be at St. Lukes Episcopal Church in Birmingham, AL on Thursday, September 8, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The funeral will be held at St. Lukes Episcopal Church at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, September 9. Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on 9/5/2005.

And here’s a sample of his preaching (for more check the indexes of the JMM website)

* HOW CAN I EXPLORE THE MYSTERY? *by The Rev. Dr. John Claypool

<http://explorefaith.org/bio.claypool.html>* * <http://explorefaith.org/bio.claypool.html>*

I think one of our big problems is that we’ve never really understood clearly the nature of faith. As I was growing up, I thought that faith was the opposite of knowing. I was like the little boy that C.S. Lewis talks about who says, “Faith is having to believe something that you know ain’t so.” That is, it’s embracing something that’s contrary to all of the ways that you encounter reality.

But faith is not an alternative to knowing. Faith rightly understood is yet another avenue to knowing. By the grace of creation, we have been given so many ways of interacting with the outside world. We are, as someone has said, a wonderfully porous creature.

When I was in the second grade, my teacher said, “I want to teach you this afternoon about the different ways that you have of perceiving the many splendored world all about you.” She said, “You have an eye gate through which all the wonder of color and shape enters into your experience. You have the ear gate through which the wonder of sound comes, the nose gate through which odor comes, the tongue gate which is where taste comes into your experience, the skin gate that enables you to feel and to perceive. You have these five ways of interacting with the world outside yourself. There are many kinds of reality out there, and you have many different ways of perceiving.”

I want to say to you that what the eye is to color, what the ear is to sound, what the nose is to odor, faith is to the divine dimension of reality. Faith is the capacity that we have been given by the grace of God to perceive that which is essentially spiritual, which is sacred and holy by nature. You reach religious conclusions the same way the scientists reach conclusions in the laboratory. The difference between the knowing of science and the knowing of faith is that the object that we are perceiving is spiritual in nature and not physical.

The point is that when we enter a search for religious reality, we need to sit down before a fact like a little child, exactly as the faithful scientist does. We need to recognize that we have the capacity of faith, which is God’s way of helping us perceive the divine dimension of reality. We know things of the spirit in that same kind of humility that we know things with our eyes, our ears, our nose. Those organs perceive things beyond themselves and allow them to enter into our experience.

Faith is yet another avenue to knowledge; it is not an alternative to knowledge. Therefore, in making up your mind about the great alternate questions, I invite you to a kind of openness that believes that truth is more important than anything else, and that God is the source of all truth. If you will be honest in your asking, seeking and knocking, if you’ll open the windows of your soul 360 degrees and know that God has ways of making God’s own reality known to us through the capacity of faith, there will come God’s moment when God will make God’s own reality known to you in ways that are profoundly authentic. It will be something from the outside in and not from the inside out.

I believe you would agree that one of the great Christian converts of the 20th century is C.S. Lewis. When he was ten years old, his mother was afflicted with cancer and died. As a little boy brought up in the church, he had prayed earnestly to God that she would be healed and not die, and when she did, it was a terrible disappointment. Because children are so concrete in the way they see things, he concluded that his prayer was not answered because there was no answerer, there was no such thing as a God who cared for His people. In his grief, he made up his mind that there must not be a God.

He was tremendously intelligent. He was sent away to private schools almost immediately, and for years he assumed that the universe is empty, that there is nothing divine, nothing purposeful behind all reality. He collected all kinds of evidence to support this opinion he had developed in childhood that there was nothing, nothing behind it all but great random emptiness. When he got to Oxford and became a brilliant student of philosophy and medieval English, he began to encounter individuals who were believers in a God. He was amazed to find out that they were careful in their scholarship, that they were very, very truth-seeking people just like he intended to be. He also found books that began to raise the possibility that maybe there was a mystery behind it all, that maybe what he had decided at ten years of age was not the deepest truth.

Lewis says in his autobiography that as he began to realize that there just might be something real behind all that corresponds to this word, God, his honest feeling was not– I hope Christianity is true, but I’m afraid it’s not. He said his real feeling state was– I’m afraid it’s true, and I hope it’s not. He had 20 years invested in atheistic arguments. He did not want to admit that perhaps all these years he had been mistaken. There was this great prejudice in him against having to embrace something that for years he had railed against.

But because of his love for truth above all things, there came a time, as he writes in his autobiography, when alone in his room in Maudlin College in Oxford, that God literally entered into his experience. He could not in the name of truth deny the reality of this power that was breaking in from beyond. Because he loved truth more than anything else, he sent up the white flag of surrender. He said, “I was the most reluctant convert in all the isle, in all the isle of England.”

Religion for him became discovery and not invention. Some days later, people who knew him began to hear him talk differently and asked, “What on earth has happened to you?” Lewis said with great humility, “My God has happened to me.”

You see religious truth is event. It is the mystery breaking in from beyond and authenticating that there is, beyond it all, this incredible and wondrous and mysterious reality.

Therefore, as you ask the question, “I, why? Why do I believe what I do?” I invite you to realize that authentic truth is of the same cloth no matter where you find it. It breaks in from beyond. It is something that exists apart from our desires and apart from our needfulness. It is what it is. If we are committed to embracing that above all things and willing to ask, seek and knock, if you will in openness say, “I want to know the truth and I want to know it whatever shape it takes,” if that is your spirit, I have every confidence that in God’s good time and in God’s own mysterious and inexplicable ways, God will have His hour with you.

You will see truth for what it is, discovery and not invention. When God comes, I hope you will respond with that God-given capacity, that sixth sense, that power of faith which enables us to know and to receive and to be engulfed with truth. In your intellectual journeys, I wish each of you a brave and honest and hopeful destination.

Copyright – 2000 The Rev. Dr. John Claypool

–From ‘How Do We Know that God Is Real?’

<http://www.explorefaith.org/LentenHomily03.10.00.html>

http://www.jmm.org.au/articles/19659.htm

~~

Want to hear him? The Creative Power of Kindness – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQiDvN-Vot8

~~

http://www.ranker.com/list/john-claypool-books-and-stories-and-written-works/reference

~~

Inventory to the John Rowan Claypool Sermon Collection

AR 686

John R. Claypool

Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives

September, 2010 2

Summary

Main Entry: John Rowan Claypool Sermon Collection

Date Span: 1962 – 1981

Abstract: Collection of sermons of John Rowan Claypool, IV, who served as pastor of First Baptist Decatur, Georgia; Crescent Hill Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky; Broadway Baptist Church, Ft. Worth, Texas; and Northminster Baptist Church, Jackson, Mississippi.

Size: 2 linear ft. (4 document boxes)

Collection #: AR 686

Biographical Sketch

John Rowan Claypool, IV, served as a prominent pastor and theologian at Southern Baptist churches for over twenty years. Born December 15, 1930 in Franklin, Kentucky, Claypool grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and was ordained into the ministry in 1953. In 1959, he received a Th.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The churches where Claypool served as pastor included: First Baptist Decatur, Georgia (1959 – 1960); Crescent Hill Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky (1960 – 1971); Broadway Baptist Church, Ft. Worth, Texas (1971 – 1976); and Northminster Baptist Church, Jackson, Mississippi (1980 – 1981).

In 1986, Claypool left the Baptist faith and was ordained as an Episcopal priest, following training at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. He served as associate rector of Christ Episcopal Church, San Antonio, Texas, then as rector of Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama, from 1987 – 2001. Claypool was theologian-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Church, New Orleans, Louisiana, from 2001 – 2003. He taught homiletics at the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University’s Atlanta campus and delivered the institution’s commencement address in 2005.

Claypool authored eleven books including Tracks of a Fellow Struggler: How to Handle Grief (1974), Stages (1977), The Preaching Event (1980), Opening Blind Eyes (1983), The Light Within You (1983), Glad Reunion: Meeting Ourselves in the Lives of Bible Men and Women (1985), Stories Jesus Still Tells: The Parables (1993), God in an Amateur (1994), Mending the Heart (1999), The Saga of Life: Living Gracefully Through All of the Stages (2003), and God the Ingenious Alchemist: Transforming Tragedy Into Blessing (2005). He presented the Lyman 3

Beecher Lectures in Preaching at Yale University in 1978. He died in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 3, 2005.

Scope and Content Note

The John R. Claypool Collection (4 linear ft.) consists of sermons by Claypool in his role as pastor from 1962 to 1981. While most of the sermons are those of Claypool, the collection does include the sermons of other ministers who preached at his church in his absence. The collection includes sermons by Mahan Siler, Jr., Wayne E. Ward, Wayne E. Oates, Frank Stagg, Robert E. Lively, Jr., Fred D. Linkenhoker, Walter Delamarter, Charles E. Boddie, William E. Hull, G. Temp Sparkman, Bill Gaventa, Jr., Howard Hove, Fred Taylor, William Amos, Robert V. Myers, Rob Shipley, Hugo Culpepper, Thomas L. Budesheim, Larry McSwain, John D. W. Watts, Eric C. Rust, Monty Knight, Bill Amos, Mark C. Fowler, Roy E. DeBrand, William H. Gibson, John Paul Carter, Franklin M. Segler, Jim Wideman, and Dan McGee. The topics cover a wide range of subjects but illustrate Claypool’s concern for family and marriage issues and the trusting God through the various stages of life. Other prominent sermon topics include repentance, believing in God, faith, prayer, and eternal life. Sermons related to Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are common in the collection.

Arrangement

Sermons are arranged in chronological order.

Provenance

Assembled from a variety of sources by SBHLA staff.

Preferred Citation

John R. Claypool Sermon Collection, Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, Nashville, Tennessee.

Access Restrictions

None

Subject Terms

Broadway Baptist Church (Ft. Worth, Texas)

Crescent Hill Baptist Church (Louisville, Kentucky)

First Baptist Church (Decatur, Georgia)

Northminster Baptist Church (Jackson, Mississippi)

Mercer University

Baptists – Sermons

Related Materials

Baptist Peace Fellowship of North American Collection. SBHLA # AR 712, correspondence

files.

Claypool, John R. Opening Blind Eyes. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, c. 1983. SBHLA #

BX6495.C556 A3.

McGlone, Lee Roy. A Comparison of the Preaching of George Arthur Buttrick and John Rowan

Claypool. Th.M., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1980. SBHLA # MF 5163. 4

Ogea, Reggie R. The Crescent Hill Years: The Impact of Historical Context on the Preaching of

John Rowan Claypool, 1960-1971. Th.D.,

Sermon titles: http://www.sbhla.org/downloads/686.pdf

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THE CONTINUING HISTORY OF CRESCENT HILL BAPTIST CHURCH

(1960 through 2011)

The decade of the sixties was marked by the outstanding pulpit ministry of John R. Claypool who served from 1960-1971. In a period of violence and social upheaval, Dr. Claypool addressed the deepest concerns of the world and brought to them a Christian message of integrity and hope. The racial crisis was a major focus of concern, and in 1961 the first persons of color, seminary students Mr. & Mrs. Sam Akande from Nigeria, joined the church. In 1968, Rev. F. G. Sampson of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church was a guest preacher. In the spirit of ecumenical concern for social issues, Claypool participated with other Louisville religious leaders in a weekly radio program, “The Moral Side of the News.” For several years after 1963 the Sunday morning worship services were broadcast on WKYW.

New church staff positions included social ministry and counseling, and the committee structure was enlarged. Wayne Craig , Minister of Education from 1961-64, facilitated a small group retreat at Spring Mill and another silent retreat in 1965 at Earlham College. Among the retreatants were the Scotts, Tates, Betty Cook, Clara McCartt, Rodney Beck, et al. Subsequently many small cell groups began meeting for prayer, sharing and Bible Study. Bob Kilgore (1964-68) and Temp Sparkman (1968-72) served as Ministers of Education, and in 1967 a “School of Christian Living” started on Sunday evenings. Mahan Siler (1961-64) and Robert Lively (1964-66) served as Associate Pastors in the mid sixties.

In 1968 during a year of tragedy in which Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated and Thomas Merton died, the church experienced it’s own sorrow when during the summer of that year the Claypool’s six year-old daughter, Laura Lue, was diagnosed with childhood leukemia. She died in Jan 1970 and the Sparkman’s daughter, Laura, died of the same disease in July of the same year. From this tragic experience John Claypool delivered four sermons which later formed the basis of his book, Tracks of a Fellow Struggler (1974) in which he reminded us that “Life is Gift.” The congregation would need to reaffirm that truth many times over the next forty years.

In exercising the gift of the life of the congregation, the church initiated the first Belle of Louisville cruises in 1963 and annual Wigginton-Jones banquets. In 1967 members facilitated Bridge Mission’s move to a new home on Portland Ave. That year the church installed the first elevator (in back of the sanctuary) and started a fund for a new organ. Bob Myers, Minister of Recreation (1960-69), began the first summer youth camping program at the James Tate farm near Eastwood, and Monty Justice, and others coached many youth basketball and softball teams. Elgene Phillips (1959-61, Harold Martin (1961-63), Dwight Cobb (1963-69), David Graves (1969-71), Tony Mobley, French Ball, Wendell Brigance, and others worked with the youth and recreation programs. A weekly youth newspaper, The Narrator, appeared briefly in the early sixties, edited for two of four years by Alan Culpepper; Youth Weeks and Sweetheart Banquets continued as annual events. Many seminary professors, students, and their wives taught in the Sunday School and other educational programs of the church. Interrobang and “Youth Dialogues” began in this era as well. Sunday School attendance in 1966 was 1756. Forrest Heeren (1953-1964) and Arnold Epley (1965-1973) directed the church’s music program in which many age level choirs participated.

During the decade of the 60’s Crescent Hill began to embrace more fully its interaction with the larger world. Having been the “seminary church” since the 1930’s many seminary trained missionaries had worshipped here, and Dr. Gaines Dobbins and the WMU had led a strong mission emphasis by the church. In her history of the WMU (written in 1988) Blanche Goetzman has chronicled the rich history of that organization since the church began. In 1950 Sue Pyles Oliver and her husband were commissioned as missionaries to Japan, and in 1963 two other youth of the church — Charlotte Bruner Ragan and Martha Yocum Lytle — were commissioned as foreign missionaries. In 1955 Miss Rose Marlowe had retired from a distinguished career as a missionary to China and Japan and settled into to the Crescent Hill congregation. By 1963 WMU Gold Star Fund money which had helped Miss Rose was being directed to assist the Olivers, Ragans, and Lytles. In the early sixties missionaries to Nigeria Rev. and Mrs. Neville Claxon operated a home for missionary kids on Crescent Ave, and the group was active in the life of the youth. Dr. Claypool and his wife traveled to Japan in 1964 where he was the featured speaker at the annual meeting of Southern Baptist missionaries in that country. During that same year youth of the church (Ron Meisburg, Grace Goodson, and Bill Buckalew) presented a drama “Conquest in Burma”, a play based on the life of Adoniram Judson. During her term as WMU President (1967-68) Betty Cook recalled fondly the “Mission Possible Fair” they sponsored. By 1970 the Baptist Women were involved in five mission groups, two round table reading groups, one prayer group, and a group which planned activities with the International students at SBTS.

In 1971 the Claypools left Crescent Hill, and he became pastor at Broadway Baptist Church in Ft. Worth. Howard Hovde (1969-1973) served as Dr. Claypool’s associate and worked closely with Dr. Bill Hull during his subsequent interim. Laura Lue was ill when Hovde arrived in the summer of 1969, and Howard provided valuable service to the church and Dr. Claypool.

http://chbcky.org/continuing-history/

~~

Life Is Gift

 

When John Claypool died in September 2005 there were scores of tributes written and spoken about the impact he had had on countless numbers of people. One of the recurring memories of what John had said in his sermons and his books was that life is gift.

In his book, Tracks of a Fellow Struggler, written after his daughter Laura Lou died of leukaemia, John Claypool, told this story that helped him to understand and work through his grief. At that difficult and dark time, this story was awakened from his childhood. He has told it many times and with different applications:

“We did not have a washing machine during WWII and gas was rationed. It was going to be a real challenge. At about that time one of my father’s younger business associates was suddenly drafted into the service. My father offered to let them store their furniture in our basement while he had to be away. Well it so happened that they had an old grey Bendix washing machine. And as they were moving in, my father suggested that maybe they would let us use their machine in lieu of our letting them use our storage space. So that was how it happened to get to our basement. The next question became, who is going to become the wash person in the family?

In that mysterious way that families assign roles, I became the wash person at the grand old age of eleven! For the next four years, I had a ritual every Tuesday and every Friday. I would come home from school, gather up the wash, take it down into the basement, fill the old Bendix with water, put in the clothes, put in the soap, and then watch as the plunger would make all kinds of configurations of suds. It had a hand roller that you could take the clothes once they were finished and you could wring them out. I can remember as a child trying to stick my finger and see how far I could go without it cutting off circulation. In other words, I became affectionately bonded to that old mechanism in those four years.

When the war was over my father’s friend came back. One day when I was at school, a truck came to our basement, took out all of their things, including the washing machine, and nobody had told me. It was a Tuesday. I came home and gathered up the clothes, went down in the basement, and to this day I can remember my sense of horror as I saw that empty space where the old Bendix had been. I put down the clothes and rushed back upstairs and announced loudly, “We have been robbed! Somebody had stolen our washing machine!”

My mother, who was not only a musician but also a wise human being, sat me down and said, “John, you’ve obviously forgotten how that machine got to be in our basement. It never did belong to us. That we ever got to use it was incredibly good fortune.” And then she said, “If something is a possession and it’s taken away, you have a right to angry. But if something is a gift and it’s taken, you use that moment to give thanks that it was ever given at all.”

That was the memory that resurfaced that night for me. I remember thinking that Laura Lou was in my life the way that old Bendix washing machine was in our basement and I heard the voice of my mother say, “If it is a gift and it’s taken, you use that occasion to give thanks that it was ever given at all.” And that memory helped me to decide that night to take the road of gratitude out of the valley of sorrow. The Twenty-third Psalm speaks of walking through the valley of the shadow of grief. I would suggest to you that the road of gratitude is the best way I know not to get bogged down in our grief but to make our way through it.

Therefore, the part of the Bible, that became my Bible was that old story that taught me that life is gift, that birth is windfall, that all, all is grace. And I give you the gift that was given to me and I pray that somehow the sense of life as gift will enable you to make a brave and hopeful journey, not just into the valley of the shadow of bereavement, but through that valley to the light on the other side. May your journey be a brave one. Amen.”

Source: J R Claypool, Tracks of a Fellow Struggler Morehouse Publishing, 1995.
Also John Claypool told this story in his address, ‘When the Bible Becomes Your Bible’, in 30 Good Minutes, Program # 4114, 11 January, 1998.
http://www.30goodminutes.org/csec/sermon/claypool_4114.htm

~~

See Geoff Pound’s online book which refers somewhere to John Claypool:

http://makinglifedecisions.blogspot.com

~~

John Claypool, who popularized “confessional preaching” through his sermons and his Lyman Beecher Lectures, is Visiting Professor of Preaching at McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta.

http://www.preaching.com/resources/articles/11549465/ :

(From an online interview, about preaching):

I had a really powerful, complex relationship with my mother. My father traveled and was the lesser influential parent in our family. And so my mother was very, very strong and very opinionated and was the shaping influence in my childhood. So she and I struggled because her tendency was to take over and control those things that mattered to her. I really had to struggle to get separate from her, and to establish my own identity.

I mentioned this one Sunday in a Mother’s Day sermon, and it so happened that my wife-to-be’s mother was there. She took great offense at the way I was speaking negatively about my mother, because I think it made her fearful that I might some day be critical of her. And looking back, it would have been just as well not to have done that. Here is where St. Paul’s speech about speaking the truth in love is so important. That it is true is only one of the factors. It can sometimes be true but — out of love — it needn’t be said.

Going back to what I said earlier about my relationship with my mother, I am happy to say that she and I worked through a lot of our issues. She died in ’94, and I think I had come to accept that her intentions were very good, and that she was operating out of a pool of experiences. She had never been particularly blessed by her mother. Trying to fix everything was kind of the way she had been treated all of her life. And I was able to reperceive her mercifully and compassionately, as I hope she reperceived me.

When she died, a pastor sent to me this little book by Alice Miller called Prisoners of Childhood. Miller says that we all come out of childhood with two forms of woundedness: We come out with grievances because none of us were born to angels. Our parents had their own needs and their own weaknesses that impacted us. But we also come out guilty because we haven’t done it any more perfectly than they. This realization was a very, very significant thing for me to work through.

There were things in my relationship with my mother that I needed forgiveness for, and things I needed to give forgiveness for. I needed to bathe that whole situation in grace. But I do wish on that given Mother’s Day, I had not used that illustration about her.

My homiletics professor, Jesse Weatherspoon, discouraged self-disclosure. He was concerned about the egotistical temptation to turn the pulpit into just a place to brag or to draw attention to yourself.

I always try to ask the motive question: “Why am I doing this?” And there have been times, particularly when I was younger, when I included references to contemporary plays or modern novels. Looking back, I realize that I wanted people to know that I was up on those kinds of things. I wanted to appear urbane and knowledgeable. And the real reason was for what they would think of me, and not the truth that the story would convey. All of us have mixed motives. This being so, I think there are dangers with confessional preaching; it is a two-edged sword, and so you have to be sensitive.

Just be sure that your basic intent is generosity and not selfishness or grandiosity. The older I get, the more I am profoundly aware of generosity being the primal characteristic of the holy. I really do think that if you are asking why did God create, that Genesis at least implies that the Holy found the whole experience so overwhelming and pleasing that the Holy must have said, “This is just too good to keep to Myself. I want others to taste this ecstasy.” So the impulse to take what has blessed you, what is given to you, and what may be present in somebody else — I think that comes closer to plumbing the mystery of why God does whatever God does.

I am trying to make generosity the guideline of my behavior. That is how I would like not just to preach, but also that is how I would like to live. Because let’s face it: death is going to make generous givers of us all. We are going to give it all back. And so to me, my birth was a gift, and at my death I am going to give everything. So that’s a clue to me that generosity is what life is all about.

One of my best moments in relation to hope came after Laura Lue [his daughter] had died, and I was so distraught. I was just exhausted physically and emotionally. I didn’t try to preach for about six weeks. My sadness was so deep. Almost 6 weeks after she died, I was in bed but I couldn’t sleep. At about 2:00 a.m., I went down and found Gerhard Von Rad’s commentary on Genesis. I turned to the 22nd chapter, which is where Abraham was called on to sacrifice Isaac. And in that chapter, Von Rad stated he felt what God was doing in this mysterious encounter was to find out if Abraham remembered where Isaac had come from. Did he remember that Isaac came from grace or did he think Isaac was a possession to which he was entitled? And Abraham’s willingness to relinquish was a sign that he did remember. He recognized that Isaac was a gift.

I can’t tell you what a powerful sense came over me — that I had a choice. I could regard Laura Lue as a possession and spend the rest of my life being angry and resentful that her life had been cut short so prematurely. Or I could spend the rest of my life being grateful that she had ever been given to us at all, and that I never had to test my relationship with her that I’d had.

And I don’t ever remember having an awareness of existential freedom any more powerful than I did at that moment. I remember exactly where I was sitting in my study. It was almost as if two roads visually opened up in front of me and I realized that I was free. I was free to walk down either one of those roads. I guess intellectually I had always realized that she was a gift, but it had not hit me in any profound sense until that moment. And I have said often that I am everlastingly grateful to God that that night I chose to take the road of gratitude rather than the road of resentment.

It didn’t in any way diminish the fact that to this day I wish Laura Lue had lived. And I have wondered what all of us would be like if she had lived. It didn’t diminish the sadness, but it kept me from just descending into this bitterness of soul that wouldn’t bring back anything. I read just the other day that responding to grief with bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping it is going to kill someone else. In fact, who you are really hurting is yourself. And I have seen other people who have chosen the road of bitterness, and I have seen what it has done to them.

When I was in high school in Tennessee, I had wanted so much to be an athletic star and be a back in football. When I went out for football, it was clear that there were several other people faster and better. At the first spring practice of my sophomore year, the coach said, “I’ve got to have a center. I’ve got to teach somebody how to play this position. It is a key position, and is anyone up for it?”

And in one of those flash moments, I decided I probably wasn’t going to get to play much as a back. So I held up my hand. And so began the tortuous process of trying to learn how to be a center. It is a horrible position, because you are down looking back through your legs. Just an awful position. And back in those days up in Tennessee, General Neyland, the legendary coach at the University, had this single wing formation where you had to pass it back every time.

Anyway, I was the center on offense and a linebacker on defense. And of course we didn’t get any of the glory — just always found ourselves in the pile in the middle. But right before the half of our homecoming game against Peabody High, I was the linebacker and I intercepted a pass. And I am streaking down the sidelines on the way to score a touchdown right in front of the stands where our students were. And somehow, that ball got away from me.

Now here there was nobody within 10 yards of me, because in those days you couldn’t run with a fumble. So I had to recover my own fumble, and you talk about crushed. And my peers were just merciless. They called me “Glue-Fingers Claypool.” It was a memorable moment. It put another nail in the coffin that I was never going to be athletic hero, something that I so wanted to do.

The confessional sermon that had the most widespread impact was entitled The Basis of Hope, which I preached six weeks after my little girl was diagnosed with leukemia. It is in my little book, Tracks of a Fellow Struggler.2

I also remember sermons in which I share how I had to go through several periods of doubt along my faith journey. I remember doing that on several occasions, and it seemed to be helpful. Sometimes I have traced how I grew up just echoing what my family believed, as any child will.

And then I had this experience with a neighbor who moved in up the street. His father had been in the military, and he had lived a lot of places. My mother called me to come in one Sunday afternoon when he and I were playing, and he asked me why I had to go. And I said that I had to get ready to go to church. He got this dark expression on his face, and he said “Church? My father thinks that anybody who listens to God is just a plain fool.”

Well, that was a shattering experience in my life. I had never heard anyone talk like that. I was very frightened. I lashed back at him saying that my father believed in God. And the night after this had happened, I can distinctly remember lying in bed looking at the ceiling and trying to sort it out: “OK, here I am, I believe there is a God because my father says there is. And here is my friend doing the very same thing — he’s believing what his father believes, and he says there isn’t a God.” And posed before my shattered innocence was the question: “How do you know that your father is right?”

This was the beginning of my religious struggle. An exchange student came to our high school from Iran. He told me he didn’t think the Bible was true. He believed that Allah was the only true god and that Muhammad was his prophet. And I had not ever heard of the Quran in Nashville in the 1930’s and 40’s. We were so encapsulated. So that really launched me into a terrible time of unknowing. But I will always be grateful for that, because it was in that unknowing that I had to ask and seek.

I have told that story of my own faith struggle, and it has helped others who were struggling.

I have also had lots of struggles in coming to have personal sense of “worthwhileness” based on grace, not on achievement. A minister in town called me one Monday afternoon and said, “Who cuts the barber’s hair?” And I said, “Excuse me?” He explained: “Where does the pastor go for pastoral care? We are so busy taking care of everyone else, where do we go for our needs?” And suddenly he just broke down. He said things were just coming apart for him, and he asked five of us to come be with him and see if we could take off our masks and give each other some care.

And so that was my first experience of profound sharing. I had never had that kind of interaction in the seminary. And it was there that I had a really profound moment of new self-awareness — that my worth came from God and not from my achievements. I am not free of that yet. I think we continue to work on our salvation with fear and trembling. We keep trying to appropriate what we have already been given.

If I am going to be autobiographical, the less I know the people to whom I’m disclosing, the more it has got to be pretty basic and general. It should not be anything specific. When I have to speak to a group of people that I don’t know, I fall back on something that Bill Hull said to me once when he asked me to go out to his seminary church in Kentucky. Bill said, “Tell us what is saving you.”

And so in that sense it does not have to be autobiographical, but you try to get in touch with things that are the best help for you at that moment. So when I am talking to a strange audience and have not been able to educate the listener, as Fred Craddock says we ought to do, I try to share the things that I feel like have been most helpful in my own journey. They are general illuminations and experiences, not stories that are so specifically about me.

2 John Claypool, Tracks of a Fellow Struggler: How to Handle Grief, The John Claypool Library (Birmingham: Insight Press, 2003).

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