Monday, April 27, 2009

Preaching: dare to be "good enough"

This week's sermon went better.

Maybe because I let it be "good enough."

To be sure, I had many of the problems with writing a sermon on Matthew 7:13ff that I did with Matthew 7:1-12:
  • Should I preach on verses 13f only? But what about verses 21-23 . . . which are summarized in the parable of verses 24-27? And what do I do with verses 15-20?
  • Then too, each and every one of the 17 experts I checked were happy to agree these verses were a coda to the Sermon on Mount -- one in which Christ stressed our need to obey His words. But that led them into a discussion of faith vs. works, and Paul vs. James, and the roles played by justification and sanctification in our salvation . . .
  • So when it came time to come up with a thesis, I was left with one of those horrible run-on sentences that try to say everything and end up saying nothing, i.e. "While salvation is a gift, we must open that gift in order to get the full benefit of the good things God has in store for our lives -- and yes, it would be a good thing to send Him a thank-you note as well . . . and did I mention that we need to floss every day?"
In short, I woke up at 6 AM on Sabbath with the horrible realization That It Was Going To Happen Again, i.e. my attempt to preach a great sermon had left me with a sprawling mess.

Instead, I pulled out my machete and started hacking away.
  • Verses 13-14 and 24-27 stayed; everything else went.
  • Everything the experts said about these verses got to stay; everything they did to tie in these verses with the Great Themes of Scripture got tossed over the side.
  • And even though "use it or lose it" was a trite thesis -- one that did not do justice to everything Jesus said in these verses -- it would have to do for now.
The result was a poor, withered shadow of everything I could have said about these verses . . .

But it was better than what I had at 6 AM.

And it was good enough to bless my people.

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