Happenings Along the Way
Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury
Expertly written and acted, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum has been ransacked as an eye-catcher for many projects, presentations, and programs over the years. Based on the book and Broadway play, the 1960’s movie awakened in humankind that funny things do happen along the way, sometimes even en route to church.
Much has been written about such things, but two minor “foul-ups” some three decades apart probably remained in the “shallows of the unknown,” except as may have been shared among friends by word of mouth.
Both would have caused the late Rev. Max Copeland–for 42 years pastor of Marble Falls First Baptist Church–to smile.
By way of background, during my tenure at Howard Payne University from 1986-2000, it was a part of the presidency to speak often at churches around the state. I did so gladly, despite my theological knowledge falling into the “shallows category” mentioned earlier. Typically, my invitations were extended by pastors who had to be away from their pulpits on given Sundays.
That said, on a Sunday in the early 1990s, I made my way toward Marble Falls, where “Brother Max” was named to the pastoral role in 1958, seven years after graduation from Baylor University.
“If you want to have an immediate advantage with my flock, wear red socks,” the warm-hearted pastor suggested. “I wear red socks every time I preach.” (Though Marble Falls school colors are purple and gold, Brother Max still preferred red but “bled purple.” He sat in a red chair at MFHS sporting events, and was regarded as the Mustangs’ #1 fan. Also, the high school gymnasium and a Marble Falls street are named in his honor.)
Alas, when I drove into the parking space several minutes before the service began, I remembered Copeland’s admonition. However, I had worn black socks. What to do?
Voila! As I emptied my woolen shoe bags, their color splashed against welcoming eyes.
Before putting on my shoes, I slipped those red bags on over my socks. My pulpit advantage was restored! Some parishioners even complimented me on wearing red socks.
Maybe the other vignette would have been “less funny” if my dental crown had fallen out, but it happened to someone else. About a decade ago–several years after Copeland retired to emeritus status–Dr. Richard Jackson served as interim pastor. (Revered during his 26 years as pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, Dr. Jackson baptized more than 21,000 folks. His theological mind runs as deep as mine does shallow.)
One Sunday, a dental crown dislodged about an hour before Jackson was to preach at two services. Quickly, Dr. Jan Morris, a church member, opened her office to put the crown back in place. Jackson noticed how easily the task was accomplished, recalling that previously, all dentists had been males, and all of them with large hands.
Crown back in place, he preached at both services.
It is unlikely that I would ever have known about his becoming a dental patient 100 miles from his home in Brownwood. When I called him recently, he was en route to a dental appointment. That’s when he told me that’s how he found a new dentist a decade ago.
This set me to thinking. Our friendship began when we were Howard Payne students in the mid-1950s. I’ve kidded him unmercifully that if he had been a better baseball player, he might have entered the ministry a couple of years later. Upon hearing this worn-out attempt at humor, he smiles, considering the source. My new line is that I thought ALL dentists’ hands would fit inside his mouth.
In truth, though, Jackson and “Brother Max” shared much in common. Both had “preacher fathers” who taught them to best serve the Lord by “preaching the Bible and loving people.”
Dr. Newbury is a long-time public speaker and university president who writes weekly. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 817-447-3872. Facebook: Don Newbury. Twitter: @donnewbury.