One of the great preachers of our time is Dr. Fred Craddock. Craddock tells a story about vacationing with his wife one summer in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One night they found a quiet little restaurant, where they looked forward to a private meal. While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting with the guests. Craddock leaned over and whispered to his wife, "I hope he doesn’t come over here." He didn’t want anyone intruding on their privacy. But sure enough, the man did come over to their table. "Where you folks from?" he asked in a friendly voice.
"Oklahoma," Craddock answered.
"Splendid state, I hear, although I’ve never been there," the stranger said. "What do you do for a living?"
"I teach homiletics at the graduate seminary of Phillips University," Craddock replied.
"Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you? Well, I’ve got a story to tell you." And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with Craddock and his wife.
Dr. Craddock said he groaned inwardly and thought to himself, "Oh, no! Here comes another preacher story! It seems like everybody has at least one."
The man stuck out his hand. "I’m Ben Hooper," he said. "I was born not far from here across the mountains. My mother wasn’t married when I was born, so I had a pretty hard time. When I started to school, my classmates had a name for me, and it wasn’t a very nice name. I used to go off by myself at recess and lunch time because the things they said to me cut me so deep. What was worse was going to town on Saturday afternoons and feeling like every eye was burning a hole through me, wondering just who my father was.
"When I was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to our church. I would always go in late and slip out early. But one day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in the church on me. Just about the time I got to the door I felt a big hand on my shoulder. I looked up and the preacher was looking right at me. ‘Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?’ he asked. I felt this big weight coming down on me. It was like a big black cloud. Even the preacher was putting me down. But as he looked down at me, studying my face, he began to smile a big smile of recognition. ‘Wait a minute!’ he said. ‘I know who you are. I see the family resemblance now. You are a child of God.’ With that he slapped me across the rump and said, ‘Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.’
The old man looked across the table at Fred Craddock and said, "Those were the most important words anybody ever said to me, and I’ve never forgotten them." With that, he smiled shook hands with Craddock and his wife, and moved on to another table to greet old friends.
And as he walked away, Craddock – a native Tennesseean himself – remembered from his studies of Tennessee history that on two occasions the people of Tennessee had elected to the office of governor men who had been born out of wedlock. One of them was a man named Ben Hooper.
SOURCE: This illustration is part of the sermon above "Is It Well With Your Family?" and is adapted from a Sermon by Fred Craddock.
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