First Words

First words are important.

After all, well begun is half done. A carefully-crafted opening provides a proper introduction to an author’s thoughts. So I spend an inordinate amount of time on the first word, sentence, paragraph, and page.

Some days the words flow like a fast moving stream. Other days the syllables ooze like molasses in January. I find myself staring at the blinking cursor on the computer screen, wondering why the inventor didn’t call it a CURSER!

First words are difficult because an author must CHOOSE. Out of an infinite number of beginnings, there can only be ONE first word, sentence, and paragraph.

This Sunday I will preach my first sermon as the new senior pastor at Northside United Methodist Church in Atlanta. Like Jacob at the Jabbok ford, God and I have wrestled over the past weeks about what to say . . . and what not to say . . . and how to say it. After all, first words are important because they form first impressions.

Over the past weeks, those adolescent first-day-at-high-school-anxieties have welled up inside. Will they like me? Will the other children play with me? Can I get my locker open? Where’s the bathroom? What if I get lost?

Time and again the Holy Spirit whispers in my soul: Peace, be still. Then I am reminded that the Lord IS the First and Last, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. All of life occurs within the context of God’s providential grace.

God always has the first word . . . and God always has the last word. So Psalm 19:14 has become my prayer for the first word of the first sermon on a first Sunday:

  • May the words of my mouth
  • and the meditations of my heart
  • Be acceptable in thy sight,
  • O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

First words are important.

9 thoughts on “First Words

  1. You are correct Bill. And I think you’d also agree last words are just as important. You have always been such a master at opening and closing with powerful words and thought-provoking comments. Kirk and I always eagerly anticipated your words. No doubt your new congregation will as well. God bless!


  2. Praying for the Lord’s perfect message from you, as He always gives you. I miss your messages and your presentation. And we miss you!


  3. Love and prayers for you and Tracey in your new home and new church home. I’ll keep up with y’all through your blog!


  4. I have prayed for God to bless your beginning with Northside, bless the words of your mouth and bless the work of your hands. We love you!


  5. May God continue to keep you in His care. You were not in your usual place on Sunday morning. I miss you. Regards to your dear wife.


  6. Well, maybe don’t start with something like, “Hello, Hotlanta! I’m just peachy about coming here to Northside for my next gig! And I brought my first wife with me! Ain’t she a beaut?” They’re probably more sophisticated in the big city! I’m sure that your seeking Holy Spirit guidance will be answered with just the right words, and they will be received as God wishes. We will be thinking of you and Tracy and praying for a smoother week!


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