After a year of devoted attention from myself and Audiovisual Specialist Stephen Bolech, we’re excited to provide an update on the George W. Truett Sermons Collection: all of Dr. Truett’s extant sermons from 1941 have been digitized, transcribed and added to the collection! The 36 sermons from 1941 include 31 Sunday services (or 60% of the Sunday messages delivered that year) and 5 special services – two Saturdays, two Mondays and a Tuesday.
This phase of the project represents the largest chunk of material delivered to us by colleagues at The Texas Collection in late 2011. The boxes of 16″ discs were organized, cleaned, migrated from analog to digital and transcribed by the team at the Digital Projects Group with the goal of getting all the 1941 materials online by the end of 2013. Now, we’ll begin work on the 17 remaining sermons from 1942, the penultimate full year of Truett’s life.
Highlights from 1941
The sermons of 1941 represent what I’ve taken to calling a “Farewell Tour” of Truett’s favorite topics. Looking into publications that contain his sermons from earlier in his ministry, it’s easy to spot some of the major themes – and, at times, outright verbatim copying – Truett spent a lifetime in ministry pursuing. It brings to mind the old joke about the new preacher who gave a rollicking sermon on his first Sunday in the pulpit, then proceeded to repeat it verbatim for the next six Sundays. Finally, one of his parishoners asked him, “Preacher, why do you keep repeating yourself every week?” And the preaching replied, “I’ll keep on repeating my message until you people start living it.”
It’s understandable that a man in his mid-70s would begin to look back over a storied career spent in ministry and giving his congregation at First Baptist Church of Dallas one last chance to hear his most cherished messages. And for a man in his sunset years struggling with illness and beset by worries of the then-approaching Second World War, Truett sounds remarkably powerful in these recordings. At times, his voice will crack, he will appear to lose the word he’s looking for, but it’s no more obvious than when a similar situation is encountered by a much younger speaker.
A few of the highlights from the 1941 sermons include:
- A sermon (["Go and Do Thou Likewise"] – September 28, 1941) wherein Truett outlines the one instance in Scripture that Jesus commands his audience to follow the example of a mortal human being.
- A sermon on the myriad ways in which people neglect various aspects of their life ([The Tragedy of Neglect] – March 30, 1941) that opens with an announcement from the pulpit that someone in the audience – the recording, unfortunately, begins after the name has been read – must go to the church office immediately to take an important phone call. At the end of the message, Truett informs the congregation that the man had to take the call to learn the circumstances of a loved one’s death.
- The message regarding the applicability of Jesus’ words and ministry to all people ([Jesus Is Everybody's Preacher] – December 7, 1941) delivered on December 7, a date that would later become known as Pearl Harbor Day. Truett and his congregation had not received word of the attack when this message was being delivered, so no mention is made of it aside from general warnings about the world condition and the darkness of war that gripped much of the countries on Earth.
- The Sunday following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Truett’s message (["The Lord Reigneth"] – December 14, 1941) hits notes that will resonate with all who have lived through national disasters and trying circumstances, from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. It also includes Truett’s only outright political discourse on the year: an extended railing against the United States’ decision not to join the League of Nations following the First World War.
There are, of course, many more reasons to check out the sermons below. For example, in the message from July 20 ([The Power of Sympathy] – July 20, 1941), Truett delivers what is the closest thing to a joke as can be found in the collection to date. To wit:
The world is wanting love. No wonder, therefore, that David prayed to God, “Enlarge my heart.” He didn’t pray, “Enlarge my head.” Our heads, often, are too big, often too large.
Jerry Seinfeld he’s not, but the brief glimmer of humor is a refreshing change from the typically straightforward – and often “fire, brimstone and damnation” – style the pervades these messages.
A surprising leitmotif that emerges is Truett’s love of poetry. This harkens back to his history as a teacher and lover of education, and whether he is reciting the numerous poems he peppers into his speeches by memory or is reading them from prepared notes is unclear. What is clear is his love of the art, as evidenced by this reading of a poem entitled The Hidden Line (The Destiny of Men) by Rev. Joseph Addison Alexander. Click the play button below to listen!
Just a reminder: the sermons in this collection are keyword searchable now that they have been transcribed. Just head to the collection’s landing page and use the search box to search for your topic of interest.
We hope you’ll take some time to review these priceless messages, and we look forward to adding further sermons and collection enhancements over the coming months.
The 1941 Sermons of George W. Truett