Background: This is the sermon preached at the Seward and Moose Pass United Methodist Churches on 6 January 2013. While I wanted to highlight the call of the Matthew 2:1-12 Epiphany text to be a light to the nations…the surrounding community…I needed to give the congregations an introduction to who I am and some of my hopes and dreams of being their new pastor. I wanted them to know that there will be a learning curve but that I hope to truly be at home in this community. Will Willimon preached a “first” sermon that involved a dating illustration. It seemed appropriate to what I was feeling to play off of this.
It’s flashback time. In the late eighties there was a very famous advertising slogan, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Who knows whose slogan that was? …… Head and Shoulders.
What the ads were saying is that, when you’re trying to make a good impression with someone, when you want them to think highly of you, when you want to make sure they don’t walk away with negative thoughts, you had better be sure that you were free from dandruff. Look your best. Start off on the right foot.
But the slogan was awesome because it’s exactly true. You get one shot at not coming off like a loser or a cad or a nag or a bully or a lunatic or otherwise horrible person. So come out strong. Put your best foot forward. Give it your best shot.
This has been made clearer to me over the last few years as we’ve had a few friends go back in the dating pool after an end to marriages. You may have persons in the same situation in your own life. These are persons who have been with a husband or wife for 10, 15, or 20 years. There are many things that happen as they enter a new stage in their life. One of those things is that, all of a sudden, at least it seems, our friends are getting phone numbers and calling and asking about going on a date. It’s like being thrust back into High School all over again. Those of us who are currently married can remember what all of this can be like for folks. They wonder what to wear. They are concerned about where to eat and then worrying about whether they have that little piece of food in their teeth that will prove to be their downfall. Before the date they wonder how much information should they share. And, when they get home they wonder if they shared too much. They want to decompress from the stress of worrying about whether the other person is going to like them for who they are and whether they, themselves, are going to be willing to overlook all of the faults and foibles that got revealed over the course of the dinner and the movie and the small talk and the drive home.
And, I’m sure it’s worse when it’s a blind date. Both parties going in cold. On edge from the first greeting at the door. Both of them filled with apprehension, wondering how they are going to appear…but at the same time looking ahead and wondering if this could be the relationship that makes things right…that heals…that hopes…that brings joy. These are big issues.
Perhaps that’s a little melodramatic. But first impressions can be a little melodramatic…which makes that introductory period so awkward. It goes for job interviews. It goes for meeting your fiancés parents. It goes for running for a political office. And it goes for that first date.
Which, of course, brings us to today…
But wait, there’s more!