I found out on Friday that the man who was my advisor when I was a student at SLCC is retiring. Keith McCaslin taught (at least) four generations how to preach. He worked at SLCC for 43.5 years.
As many of you know, I live my life with a certain sense of irreverence. I don’t take too many things seriously, and if I do it’s either because it’s a very devastating/serious situation, it’s really pissing me off, or I’m over-tired. I must’ve been over-tired every time I’ve ever seen, spoken to, or been reminded of Mr. McCaslin…because I always took/take him seriously, ha ha. Really, though, I respect Keith McCaslin more than I could possibly express in a blog post…but let’s give it a shot…whaddya’ say?
To begin with, after I graduated from SLCC, I began working there. My professors became my colleagues. I called every one of them by first name, except for my direct boss, the President of the school, and Mr. McCaslin. As far as I’m concerned, his first name is “Mister.” Not because I don’t think of him as a friend, but because I think of him as one of the few people I’ve met that is deserving of being called by his title. He earned his “Mister.” And he stood out as that type of man to me almost immediately.
Mr. McCaslin was ridiculously supportive of me during my entire tenure at SLCC, both as student and as colleague. When I was a Preaching student (that’s what my degree is in, by the way…I’m a certified Preacher…go figure), Mr. McCaslin often praised my work. I delivered an “expository” sermon in one of his classes (that’s a sermon that focuses on one particular text and digs into it specifically, without jumping into other parts of the Bible—an EXPOSitory sermon EXPOSES the truth of a section of scripture). We weren’t supposed to know how to do expository sermons until the next level of classes. He briefly gave us an overview of the expository method in that class, but we weren’t required to know it until the next course. As such, most people didn’t even take notes…but when Mr. McCaslin spoke, I ALWAYS took notes. So, I delivered my expository sermon. I sat down and—completely breaking with his typical private grading method—he said some words that are forever burned into my brain.
“In all the years I’ve taught Preaching, that is the best example of an expository sermon I have ever heard from a first-year Preaching student.”
I don’t know if he knows how much it meant to hear him say that.
After I was handed my walking-papers at SLCC, Mr. McCaslin was the very first person to stop by my office and tell me he was sorry to hear I was leaving. When I told him I wasn’t leaving, I was being laid off (the letter the college sent out about it was a *touch* misleading), he shook his head and said, “I was afraid it was something like that.” I can’t quite explain why…but from him, those were strong words. I don’t know if he knows how much it meant to hear THAT either… Mr. McCaslin, along with his wife Liz, who I worked with at the Library (and who, oddly, I CAN call by first name, but it’s not from lack of respect) also came to my “goodbye” lunch. Mr. McCaslin was one of the few professors who did. I will never forget that.
I’ve thought about Mr. McCaslin a lot since leaving SLCC. I have endless memories of the time I was able to spend with Mr. McCaslin. Classes he lead while I was there. Sermons he gave in Chapel (and I say “gave” because each one was a gift to those of us lucky enough to be in the seats). I remember each advisory session—even though most of them were very brief. I remember each meeting in which he chose to speak up while I was on staff. (He didn’t often have much to say at the meetings…but when he did, everyone listened…because we all knew he was right.) I am honored to know Mr. McCaslin, and if I have one regret about my time under his tutelage, it is this… Sometimes I feel a little bit like I let him down. I’m not in anything RESEMBLING a Preaching Ministry, and sometimes I feel bad that the outlining skills he taught me are mainly used for blog posts and podcasts. But…on the other side of that, he is a good man and I know that he is happy that I am happy. And that’s nice.
In closing… (And, by the way, he’s always told his students to NEVER transition into their closing remarks by saying “In closing…” So don’t tell him I did that, ‘kay?) I ventured the question on Facebook of “How do I sum up the amount of respect that I have for this man?” My friend Alex put it best.
Congratulations on a long, vibrant, God-blessed career Mr. McCaslin. I am SO glad that you get some time to sit back and relax, content in knowing you’ve done the Lord’s work. Not a lot of people in ministry ever get to do that. I can’t think of anyone who deserves that reward any more than you do.
Thanks for everything.
As a side note: Sorry it took me so long to write this. I said in the last post that I wanted to write something about the theology in Neil Peart’s lyrics. I didn’t think that through when I wrote it. That’s a huge task and there’s a LOT of source material to work from. I started it and wrote a little every night—each night thinking, “tonight’s the night I’ll finish it.” It is now entirely too long and extremely uninteresting. So…
Short version: I don’t agree, but he makes some very valid points, asks the same questions I ask, and just arrives at different answers. At least he’s well-reasoned on it, even if he’s sometimes too aggressive, in my opinion.