Well, today is the day before my sermon! So I'll write one last post for my series on preaching----though I may also write about my sermon tomorrow, after I come home from church. In this post, I'll draw from The Waltons episode entitled "The Sermon", in which John-Boy has to give a sermon at his church in the pastor's absence. I have two thoughts.
1. In the Waltons
episode, John-Boy checks out a bunch of books to help him prepare for
his sermon, and his Grandma gives him advice (based on the preachers she
has heard over the years) in hope that John-Boy will be a powerful
preacher on Sunday. John-Boy feels a little overwhelmed, for he wants
to deliver a learned sermon, but he doesn't have any preaching
experience, plus there are a few in the congregation who don't have a
whole lot of faith in him. As John-Boy pores over the books, his father
John checks on him to see how he is doing, and John gives John-Boy one
of those helpful Walton father-son chats. John-Boy complains to his
father that the books are telling him to do all sorts of contradictory
things, and he doesn't know whom to believe. John then tells his son
that, at some point, John-Boy will have to put away the books, and even
put his grandmother's advice to the side, so he can listen to what his
own heart is telling him and write the sermon that he wants to write.
John then reminds John-Boy that John-Boy is a good writer, and the words
usually come to him.
Something that I have highlighted in my
series on preaching is that there are all sorts of ideas about what
constitutes effective preaching. Some say that you should tell stories,
while others say that sermons should have meaty intellectual content.
Some advocate pounding the pulpit, whereas others promote a gentler
approach. And the list goes on. My opinion is that all sorts of styles
can be effective. I've heard powerful sermons in which the preacher
shares wisdom that he or she gained from personal experience, but I have
heard other sermons that were good but did not share any personal
anecdotes, or even stories, for that matter. And the reverse is
true----I've heard bad sermons that had anecdotes, and bad sermons that
lacked a personal touch.
In terms of the sermon that I will be
delivering this Sunday, I do not share any personal anecdotes, but I go
through the story of Job, then I draw points of application from it. I think that the negative to this is that my sermon lacks a personal touch, since it's largely exegesis.
For Layperson Sunday, in which a layperson like me preaches the sermon,
people in my church probably want a personal touch----they want me to
bring who I am as a person into my sermon, as I share who I am. The
last time that a layperson delivered the sermon was during Gifts of
Women Sunday, and the lady giving that message talked about her own
experiences as a single-parent, as she brought in the biblical story of
Hagar (see here).
my sermon will be different. It's not because I, like John-Boy,
meditated in solitude and made a decision about the best kind of sermon
that I could preach. Rather, what happened was that I sat in front of
the computer to type my sermon out, and what came out was what came
out. I felt that I should tell the story of Job, and it took me a lot
of time to do so, such that I did not have the time to cut to a personal
anecdote----plus doing so would disrupt the flow of my message.
Is my sermon the best? No, but it is what it is. And, in a sense, it
does communicate who I am----it tells the congregation that I interpret
biblical texts, and that I am interested in themes that are in the Book
I guess that, if you want an anecdote, my telling of the story of Job will be that anecdote!
The Pastor Emeritus' sermons often tell a biblical story and draw
lessons from it, and I'll be imitating him in this. The congregation
loves the Pastor Emeritus----some of them even visited other churches
where he was preaching, just to hear him! I think that one reason his sermons have appeal is that he tells the stories of the Bible, and people love stories.
John-Boy fears that his sermon won't be as thoughtful as what the
pastor usually delivers, and John tells his son that the pastor has been
preaching for a long time and thus has experience and knowledge when it
comes to preaching, and also that John-Boy won't learn all that there
is to know about preaching in a week. I think that these are important
insights. My message this coming Sunday probably won't be the best
sermon ever delivered in the history of homiletics. Maybe I won't ever
be invited to preach at my church again! (John-Boy said that he was
never asked to preach again after his sermon.) But my sermon will be
what it will be!
I may share with you how my sermon
goes, since I write about my experiences at church each week. Or I may
comment on a hymn I sang, as I sometimes do in my church write-ups. I'm somewhat like Grandpa Walton: one reason that I like going to church is the singing!
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