I’m more likely to have favorite sermons instead of favorite preachers. But since the topic is preachers, and Paul Brown preached two of my all time favorite sermons, I’m choosing to thank God for sharing Paul with us for a time.
Paul was a Cumberland Presbyterian Minister and Professor of Worship & Preaching at MTS when I joined the faculty in 1993. At various times in his life he’d taught drama and also New Testament. And he could sing. When you put those gifts together with his passion for the gospel, his activist perspective (which grew from his gospel passion), and his biting sense of humor, you have an extraordinary preacher. I can still see him: leaning over a pulpit, eyes intense, finger in the air, gray-white hair flopping over his forehead, building to the moment when he delivered his punch line which invariably pierced my heart.
He had the guts to preach an Advent sermon on the “slaughter of the innocents.” “Whenever God acts in the world,” Paul said, “the world is going to act like Herod. You best be ready!” In another sermon he told of being a 2nd grader in a new school, getting into trouble because he didn’t quite fit in, & the teacher who understood, intervened, & saved him from a trip to the principal’s office. “She was Jesus to me,” he said. Then he charged us, “Go out & be somebody’s Jesus!”
My colleague Lee Ramsey speaks often of “Saint Paul Brown.” I concur! He isn’t a saint to me because of anything like perfection. He’s a saint to me because he thought widely and loved deeply, because he preached the gospel with his whole self, which is also how he lived the gospel. I am farther along on my spiritual journey because I knew Paul and heard him preach. I am blessed. I am grateful.