The good folk in my church know of my predisposition—my penchant—my proclivity for noticing in Bible study the numbers three and seven—numbers in Hebrew thought representing wholeness or completeness (and thus it is that the number six represents incompleteness and that famous number 666 (three sixes) represents perfect incompletion). So I note, time and time again, in Bible study, and point out, time and time again in Bible study, the completeness suggested by three occurrences of an important image, seven repetitions of a significant word, three linked stories or examples, a Scriptural passage structurally divided into three or seven parts—or the incompleteness suggested in six repetitions of a word—an image. And it is amazing how often those numbers show up—ask any church member at Woodbrook! They’ll tell you just how truly amazing it is!
Well this past Advent, if I counted correctly, I preached sermon # 333 (three threes—a perfect wholeness) at my church. … And I didn’t even notice. My guess is no one else did either! Never even occurred to me to figure that. I was just curious the other day as to how many sermons I had preached here. At some point after counting to 300, I began to wonder about #333, and then, there it was.
Looking back, there wasn’t much perfect or complete about any of those Advent sermons. In fact, they were written to need each other enough to be, each one individually, incomplete! Just one more sermon in one more worship series in the ongoing conversation that is the life and worship of our church. So much less important, in truth, for what it said than for what it is.
And it’s really not that I don’t think each sermon has something significant to offer. I do. I always do. I may not always convey that significance (I may even obscure that significance), but I always feel like it’s there—profoundly relevant and absolutely fascinating.
But it’s like those profoundly relevant, absolutely fascinating—even life-changing conversations you have with the best of your friends—that are but manifestations and celebrations of the relationship that is life-giving.
PS. There are, by the way, three occurrences of the number seven in this post, seven occurrences of the number three, seven occurrences of the numeral 3, and six combined occurrences of the number and numeral six/6!