Originally created 04/09/06

Augusta preachers stress God's course over golf course



The average man's idea of a good sermon is one that goes over his head - and hits one of his neighbors.

- Weekend observation

I have long held the suspicion that one of the true challenges of the preaching profession is to have to deliver your sermon in Augusta on the Sunday of the final round of the Masters.

The distractions would appear to be daunting. Not only have many in your flock left town because schools take spring break, their Palm Sunday pew places have been taken by visitors unused to your ministerial message.

And then there's that golf tournament down the road. You know: Whole world is watching. Pressure. Green coat presented in fading sunlight.

A tough task. How do they cope?

I decided to seek, and here is what I found: Every preacher I asked welcomes the opportunity.

"In a way, the challenge of preaching on Masters Sunday is the same as the challenge of preaching on any other Sunday," said the Rev. Michael L. Ruffin, of The Hill Baptist Church. "The Masters is a major cultural, social and economic event for our city, and as such, it is, though a good thing, a distraction."

From that traditional pulpit point, I skipped over to Carolyn Moore at Mosaic United Methodist Church in Columbia County.

"Masters Sunday is not the challenge for us at Mosaic that it might be for many churches, because most of us don't have badges," she said. "We worship together on Sunday, talk about who got to go to the tournament and who we saw out and about and who has visitors in town. Then most of us go home and watch it on television. "

Some pastors, such as Matt Lash at Advent Lutheran Church, are facing their first Masters Sunday in Augusta.

"I moved here from Michigan last May," he said, "so, for me, the challenge is pretty much unknown ... we worship and preach with Christ first and foremost - as always."

And that seems to be how most approach today's message.

"I preach the same on that Sunday as any other," said the Rev. David Fleming of Warren Baptist Church. "The crowd is smaller because so many are away, but we keep moving on."

His fellow Baptist, the Rev. Ruffin, agreed.

"The challenge of preaching is to help people know how to connect our faith in Christ with our presence in a world full of distractions and commitments," he said. "So, preaching on Masters Sunday is an exaggerated version of preaching on any Sunday."

Let me give the last word to a preacher who works within walking distance of the course.

"The greatest difficulty," said the Rev. Gerald Varner, of St. Mark United Methodist Church, is "convincing people that there is a difference in worshipping God on the golf course and in worshipping golf on God's course."

I think I get the message. Here's hoping we make the cut.