And the Room Fell Still

 

 

 

I wanted to become a Bible translator with the Wycliffe Bible Translators and was already a member, actually, when I thought it would be a good thing to have a working knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. So I went to Dallas Seminary in 1972.

In those days there were just 450 of us men in the entire student body. Now there are thousands, including many women, and DTS has several campuses around the country. When my dad went there in the late forties there were only two buildings and 80 students and he lived in a small trailer house on campus. So, the place has grown a lot.

One of the things I enjoyed and looked forward to each day was chapel. We had some of the finest preachers in the country on faculty, and many alumni were noted pastors and preachers as well and the best of these were often invited to come speak. Chapel was required and lasted a brief 30 minutes.   We only had classes four days a week (Tuesday through Friday, unless you were doing intro Hebrew, then there was also a Saturday morning class). I have to say that when 450 male students sang “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” in Chafer Chapel it was a moving experience, especially when we hit the chorus with the bass and tenors cascading through the “crown Hims” and then, all together, “and Crown Him Lord of All.”

There were several lecture series a year—the W.H. Griffith Thomas Lectures (theological and scholarly), a Missions conference (in the spring), and a Bible exposition series. Each of these were 4 days worth of our chapel time.

In the spring of 1975 a pastor from Des Plaines Bible Church in Illinois, one of the illustrious alums of this fine institution, was the speaker for the Bible exposition series. His name was Craig Massey and he was a large man with rather severe macular degeneration because when he read the text he had to bring his big print Bible right up to his face–just inches away. I have no idea what his text was that he was preaching from for reasons that will become clear in a minute (but I think it was II Timothy). He was articulate, spun out anecdotes with a practiced flourish, and was, all in all, a great communicator.

On Thursday, the third day of his series, everything had gone pretty much according to what we were used to–announcements (brief), Dr. Seume, our Chaplain, leading us in a rousing hymn, a brief introduction of the speaker by Dr. Walvoord, and then Dr. Massey got up to preach.

He had about 23 minutes left at that point and his short talk became the single most memorable sermon I had ever heard or have ever heard since. Actually, to be a bit more precise, it was one portion of his talk that became so very memorable.

He started with an anecdote that put us into good humor–a well told story. And then he got into the meat of his text. And then, rather abruptly, he departed from the text, he departed from his subject matter, and imparted to us a life lesson that was memorable in the extreme.

He was half way through his message when he stopped talking and slowly laid his Bible down on the pulpit. We had taken homiletics and we knew something about the dramatic pause (“pitch, pace, pause and punch” was the mantra of one of my homiletics profs). He looked out at this chapel full of men. And then in a conversational tone he said, “Men, bring your wife to orgasm twice a week and you will have a very happy marriage.”

I can remember the exact seat I was sitting in. I can remember the sudden stillness in the room. Never, ever, had any such thing been said out loud or even alluded to that I could recall (and such a thing I think I would recall, I am sure). Oh sure, we had profs that gave us advice like, “Men, keep your pencil in your pocket” (Hendricks). But the word, uh, orgasm, had never ever been spoken out loud. It is my bet that it had never been uttered   from that pulpit in Chafer Chapel before. And maybe never since.

And this is why, dear reader, I can not recall the text he was preaching from. This one statement was so potent, so unexpected, so, so, so memorable that it is the only thing I remember apart from the preacher’s name.

And then, as if he said nothing other than something like, “The weather is mighty fine in Texas” he paused, picked up his big black Bible and said, “Now, where was I….”

And I am still trying to remember what passage he was in.

 

Steve Van Rooy

November 2014