For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
One of the most identifiable parts of a worship service is the preaching of a sermon. The vast majority of worship services have a sermon.
But what is a sermon and what does it do for us? That’s what we’ll explore in this devotion, part of the series “What We Do When We Do Church.”
The previous devotions in this series are:
In the late winter and spring of 1988 I took my first preaching class at Concordia Seminary. There are two basic classes that seminary students take – Homiletics I and Homiletics II. “Homiletics” is the “art of preaching or writing sermons.”
I still have a VHS video tape of my final sermon for Homiletics II – but I haven’t watched it … ever.
At the time I was too arrogant to watch it, thinking I had nothing to gain from watching myself preach a sermon.
Now, I’m too frightened to watch. I can only imagine how terrible it is.
What did I know about preaching at the time? Next to nothing.
I knew how to craft a sermon, the basic “nuts and bolts” of putting a sermon together – at least one way of doing it.
But I had no experience. I wasn’t a pastor yet. I had very little life experience. No concept of what people needed to hear from God or how to tell them in a way that would make sense to them.
As I now look back on 21 years of preaching (at 60-70 sermons a year, that’s over 1,300 sermons!) I see that I still craft sermons much the same way I was taught in the initial and follow-up homiletic classes at seminary.
But now I’ve had life experiences added to my sermons and preaching. I’ve been married for twenty-five years, a father for over twenty years, I’ve been a home owner as well as living in rented homes and in parsonages. I’ve pastored people in rural America as well as suburbia.
I’ve held the hands of dozens of people as they took their last breath on this soil and closed their eyes only to open them and see Jesus face to face.
I’ve been there to comfort and pray for parents whose child has died, children whose parent has died, and spouses who say goodbye to their long-time husband or wife.
As a pastor, I see my chief responsibility, my number one task, is to preach. I spend more time as a pastor crafting a sermon than in doing just about anything else in pastoral ministry.
While I wouldn’t be comfortable saying that the sermon is the most important part of the worship service (I don’t think it is), I would say that the sermon is the one part of the worship service that I have most control over.
Because in the sermon, the Word of God is brought to bear on the lives of the people that I pastor, the people that I know best. I’ve eaten with them, I’ve laughed and cried with them, I’ve mourned and celebrated with them.
When I preach, I feel that the people that hear me are doing much the same as Mary, the crowd of people at the Sermon on the Mount, and those 5000 plus and 4000 plus who sat at the feet of Jesus to hear Him teach and then were fed bread and fish from a boy’s lunch!
But the sermon is more than mere instruction. Through the sermon, God speaks to His people, through the preacher, His Word of Law and Gospel.
While we hear God speak most clearly through the Scripture readings (you can read about that in this devotion), in the sermon people can come to a better understanding of what God is saying in His Word because the preacher knows them so well.
You see, the sermon is not just the preacher’s words and thoughts. It truly is God’s Word (unless the preacher strays from God’s Holy Word) and it is truly God speaking through the preacher – when that preacher is called by the Holy Spirit (usually through the congregation).
But it is God speaking in the preacher’s voice, using the preacher’s style of talking, and most especially it is God speaking through the preacher’s experience with – and of – you!
So many people dismiss church and worship for the same reason – the sermon is soooo boring!
But the best way to get rid of a boring sermon and a boring preacher is to get to know your pastor! Take him out to lunch. Stop by to chat with him. Take him out to the golf course, the shooting range, a baseball or hockey game, or for a cup of coffee and talk with him.
Really talk with him. Get to know him.
When you really know your preacher/pastor, you’ll never experience a dull sermon from him again!