Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

May 24, 2008

Was It a Sermon?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 4:51 pm

There is a difference between a recitation and a speech; there is an indescribable difference between that which we recite from our memory and that which God creates for us in our heart and enables us to hurl from our lip with ringing and gracious power.

I think the above quote sort of gets at the basic problem I had with my "sermon". There is a great big caution that must be slapped on the quote, however. What is not in view here is the idea of just getting in the pulpit and letting fly with what is on one’s heart. That won’t do. That won’t work because our hearts are in fact black with sin. Nothing good can come from winging it with what is on our hearts.

What is in view for me at least is the challenge of getting over the bridge that brings the preacher from merely regurgitating the prepared understanding of the text to actually delivering the truth to the people of God that takes the people out of the classroom into God presence. Means of grace, not means of information, in other words.

The seminary has a policy of disallowing students to read their sermons in the class "dry runs". Their rationale for this policy is quite good. They need the experience of delivering a sermon in order to develop skill in rhetoric so as to eliminate glaring problems that invariably surface when preaching with out a written script.

This does not preclude the practice of reading a written sermon when the candidate actually becomes ordained. So, the question becomes is it possible to read a written sermon and bridge the gap from information to grace? The answer is that, of course, it is possible.

There is no question that one can come across as a teacher even though not reading a script. It equally certain that one can preach (provide the means of grace) even though the preacher is reading from a script. I certainly came across as a lecturer in my sermon. Were I given a second chance on my sermon, I believe I could take some good steps in the right direction, since I can so easily see where I went wrong.

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May 4, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 3:32 pm

Many of you will know that basically all of my background with respect to sermons is listening to them. And 99% of those sermons were topcial sermons. The overwhelming majority of sermons preached in reformed churches are expository sermons. It goes without saying then, that it was an expository sermon that was mandated for this class. So, this was my first attempt at an expository sermon.

For a quick picture of T vs. E, a topical sermon is one where the preacher has a topic in mind. He preaches what he wants to say about the topic and in order to defend or verify that his statements are biblical, he then refers to texts, or individual passages. In this way he proves that what he is saying is correct. An expository sermon, on the other hand, is completely different. Here, the preacher is already in the text, he is preaching from within a passage. In T, he speaks his mind and derives the validity from scripture. In E, being already in a text, he is saying "THUS SAYETH THE LORD".

One mistake I made, then, in my sermon is that, even though I was in principle expositorally preaching my assigned passage, I carried the topical preacher’s mindset into the pulpit. I improperly made use of other scriptures. I in effect came across as apologetic (not in the good sense, but in the sense that I showed a complete lack of having the authority of the office). There was no "thus sayeth the Lord". It was "thus sayeth Bruce". And in all cases my references to other passages were employed in the identical way that the T preacher would. I was in effect saying, "look over here. See? Is not what I am saying correct?"

This may seem like hair-splitting. But it is actually more than that.  I do believe that topical sermons are fundamentally flawed. When the T preacher refers to other texts as proof, there is a great danger. By eliciting truth from them as proof texts they are lifted out of their proper context.  The referenced scriptures are themselves subject to an expository sermon. When they are preached, they also require an expository sermon. Used as proof texts, an overly facile approach to scripture results. You can see what is happening. With the T preacher, you never get to "thus sayeth the Lord". Put another way, the T preacher, by referring to other texts as proof, is tacitly admitting that the authority of the expository "thus sayeth the Lord" is really the only way to preach.

Admittedly, there is a problem here for the student preacher. By virtue of his being a student, he necessarily has not yet been granted the office of preacher, and thus lacks the authority to say the "thus sayeth the Lord" that comes with it. In reformed churches there is an incredibly rigorous external call process through which the candidate preacher must go. So how does the student preach as if he already has the office? I was clearly neither ready for that, nor was I really even cognizant of this dynamic.

That was by no means my only shortcoming. More later.

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May 2, 2008

Coming Soon

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 7:30 am

Here’s a heads up. I will be posting a short series of comments about the sermon I gave for my recently completed Sermon Prep and Delivery class. You won’t want to miss this. The quick summary of the class itself. GREAT. The quick summary of the sermon I preached as part of the requirements for the class can be summed up in one word. BAD.  The first installment will be up over the week end.

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