Sermon at Oakland United Methodist Church


Billy Howell, aka Poor William and Pontificus Minimus. Photo by The Delta Bohemian

Billy Howell, aka Poor William and Pontificus Minimus. Photo by The Delta Bohemian

The following sermon was given by Pontificus Minimus last Sunday at United Methodist Church in Oakland, Mississippi. Jeff Greer, childhood friend, invited Pontificus to “preach” at his church. Ole Pontificus was honored; it had been a long time since he had been in the pulpit–probably a good thing!

Once upon a time, don’t you love a tale that begins with that? It never gets old. Neither does my saying this is a TRUE STORY, I SWEAR!

There was a Preacher Man, who no longer believed in the miraculous, wasn’t even sure the creation story was real, and whether Jesus really died on a cross, and he wondered if heaven and hell were real, but he didn’t want to give up his nice paid-for-rectory, his ability to get up every week and hear himself talk, he loved his lack of duties, and the fact he could come and go as he pleased, and he only had to write a 20-minute sermon every week, and long as he visited one or two sick folks for a few minutes a week, he could be thought of as GRAND–grander than his congregation.

He had it GOOD! So he wasn’t gonna quit a good job, just because he didn’t really believe anymore. Oh, he thought Jesus was a good man, and Moses might have existed and did some pretty cool stuff, but he just didn’t buy into the whole “it’s true” thing anymore.

He was telling his congregation the story of Moses and the children of Israel crossing over the Red Sea. (It was estimated to be about 2 million men, women, and children). He stressed that scholars had said it didn’t happen the way it was written–the water didn’t really part and the children of Israel crossed over the Red Sea at a spot only about two-feet deep. So, a miracle didn’t really take place.

A little Pentecostal lady, who had been coming to church for the last few weeks kept saying “Praise God, Praise God!” He was becoming very annoyed and the more he tried to explain away the miracle the louder she shouted, “PRAISE GOD, PRAISE GOD.”

Finally, he stopped his sermon, looked at the lady and asked, “Mrs. Jones, I am up here telling you that it didn’t happen like it was written; the Children of Israel, all 2 million of them, did not cross over the Red Sea on dry ground that God parted in front of them, and you keep saying, “Praise God, Praise God!” What gives?”

Mrs. Jones replied, “If God didn’t really part the Red Sea as you say, and the Children of Israel didn’t really cross over dry ground, but walked across in two feet of water, then God did in fact perform a GREAT MIRACLE: He drowned the entire Egyptian Army and all it’s chariots and horses in two-feet of water. PRAISE GOD, PRAISE GOD, PRAISE GOD. HE DON’T PLAY!”

I am thankful to Jeff and to you for inviting me to come fellowship with you today. And that is what church is supposed to be  —  fellowship, fellowship among like-minded believers. Like-minded how? Do we all have to think alike, dress alike, listen to the same music? Do we all have the same gifts, the same hair color, the same skin tone, the same likes and dislikes?

Can we be like-minded with our church brothers and sisters and still be our unique selves? Absolutely!

God used at least 40 different people and personalities to write his inerrant, everlasting Word, the same Word, according to John, that was in the beginning.

Jesus was the Word and Jesus is Love. His word–our holy bible–matters. If God is Love, then Love matters.

I believe God would have it no other way. We are to be unique. He is the author of unique! He is a good God, who always has our best at heart. He wants us to be like Him so that we can Love his creation, just as he has loved us. And, we can only do that if we become more like Him. Jesus told us to walk as He walked. Wow!

That is heavy. He sure did a lot of loving, providing for others, taking care of others, forgiving others, and he died a horrendous death for what he did not do, sin. He died for our sins, and mine alone are ugly enough to warrant the excruciating death He so willingly embraced.

I had planned on talking about a quote by a Russian fellow name Tolstoy, who wrote some very spiritual stuff. The quote was, “The purpose of life is the fulfillment of the law of God, not the acquisition of ever more knowledge.” I wanted to talk about how accumulating more knowledge is not the end result Christians should be trying to achieve. We should be trying to be more like Jesus.

In Acts 4, Peter and John had been preaching and had healed a man in Jerusalem. They were brought before the religious rulers in Jerusalem, who questioned them and had the power to physically punish them, whip them, stone them, and put them in jail. This wasn’t play church. Peter had told the crowd when preaching that they had killed the AUTHOR OF LIFE. Peter was not afraid–not anymore. He would not deny his Lord again!

Acts 4:13 “When they (the religious leaders) saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

The leading rulers of the Jewish world, those with degrees, pedigrees, titles, favor, fame, and known for their great learning could not explain how some smelly, lowbrow, ignorant, fishermen could preach with such conviction, understanding, and how could they heal someone in the name of someone who purported to be the Son of God.

All they could do was NOTE that these fellows had been with Jesus. That is what we should strive for when others observe our lives, our habits, how we treat others, and how we treat God and his most magnificent creation. They should see us and think, “There is something different about them; they talk about Jesus and God all the time, they have a light in their eyes that most folks don’t have, they don’t grumble and complain about everything that doesn’t seem to go their way, they give of themselves to make the lives of others better, and even when sad, they don’t lose their intrinsic joy.”

That is what it means to “have been with Jesus.” When it is all said and done, what matters in this short life of ours is DID WE LOVE GOD AND DID WE LOVE OTHERS!!!


An expert in the Law of God, a Pharisee, asked Jesus: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” There were, in addition to the great 10 Commandments, over 600 other laws from the Old Testament that faithful Jews knew well, but on the whole they had lost sight of God’s intent for even having the laws to begin with, which is to help us LOVE HIM BETTER AND LOVE OTHERS BETTER!

Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Even the Ten Commandments are summed up in these two commands:

The first three teach us how we should love our God:

1.         You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.

2.         You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

3.         Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. All three help us understand how to love the very Creator of the universe.

The last seven teach us how to love one another: “Honor your father and your mother,” “You shall not kill,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,” and “You shall not covet your neighbor’s property.” All of these address how we should treat others.

So, if we will but LOVE GOD THE WAY WE WANTS US TO LOVE HIM, AND IF WE WILL LOVE OTHERS THE WAY HE HAS LOVED US, then we will fulfill the Law and the Prophets, we will be living the lives He wants us to live, and we will be pleasing Him.


Share and Enjoy !

Friends of the Delta Bohemian®


  1. Eddie Elenburg says:

    Loved the message by PONTIFICUS MINIMUS . Keep it up please.

  2. Ben Crawford says:

    I shared this on my Facebook wall…very well said.

  3. Billy, I want to take the time to once again thank you myself and also a thank you from my bretheren and Oakland United Methodist. I have been told in person and received phone and e-mail messages applauding your sermon.

    I would also like to thank your bride. The Lovely, “Magical” Madge Marley Howell for attending services with you. Everyone loved her as I knew they would.

    Also, Thank’s to My Friend, John B. McKee, for being my house guest and breaking bread together the night before hearing and watching his good friend preach last Sunday.

    We can’t wait to have each of you back.

    Thank You,

    Billy, Madge and John

  4. Really loved your sermon! So right on. Still remember your early piece on God’s grace.

    Nice balance for Mr. July videos. (Hmmmm …)

    Spirituality, humor, music and a fresh young voice … The Delta Bohemian’s got it all. I’m not a Delta Bohemian but I had one life enhancing visit there that I’ll never forget!

    Keep the wit, wisdom and wondrous honesty coming. I’m addicted.

    • What a sweet, gracious comment Kate. Madge had a ball remembering y’all’s times together. And, you are most likely a Delta Bohemian and don’t know it! HA! Come visit! PW

  5. Lil John says:

    It was nice of Jeff and the Oakland Methodist Church to have you as their guest speaker; your delivery and content were excellent and well received.

    I’m sorry Mrs. Green wasn’t there to see it.

  6. mike peay says:

    Very well written, Billy! I wish i had seen it delivered!

  7. Thanks be to God!

Speak Your Mind