I think most preachers will agree that their weekly sermon preparation both disciplines and nourishes their own spiritual life. The more time you spend in Scripture, seeking to hear God's word for yourself and your hearers, the deeper and more authentic a person you will be. For itinerant preachers like myself (who have a bag of 'oldie' sermons) it is vital to keep immersed in Scripture and stay spiritually fresh.
So, over the last few weeks I have been dwelling again in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). Someone has called them 'the essence of the essence', seeing the whole Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) as the essence of Jesus' teaching and these opening eight sentences as being their essence.
These eight beatitudes are truly remarkable. Compact, paradoxical and disturbing they seem to sum up so much about Christian living. Indeed, when you unpack the doctrines that lie behind each, they seem to cover everything that matters! In fact, I ask what is missed out! They introduce key Christian words like blessing, kingdom, meekness, righteousness, heart and peace.
In the weeks ahead I have two opportunities to preach on these eight sentences. First, at a family conference at Green Lake, called Northern Pines, I am the evening speaker (July 31- August 6). In this concentrated week, I am inviting the conference to memorize the Beatitudes and help flesh out both their teaching and their application. Preaching on consecutive days to a serious audience is a rare privilege. And, yes, some hard preparation work still needs to be done this week - prayer is welcome!
Second, on five Sundays beginning August 21st. I shall preach at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church in the last weeks of their interim before their new senior pastor begins. Having worked on the Beatitudes I asked the associate pastor whether this might be a suitable short series. To my great joy I discovered that the incoming pastor proposes beginning a series on the Sermon on the Mount(!), and is graciously happy that I introduce his own theme. How much a God-incidence is that?
I intend using my blog to collaborate with the worship planners at Elmhurst and any of the congregation who would also like to share this latest venture. So, you will catch sight of some of my outworking of these amazing eight sentences in future weeks. I have looked at several translations of these beatitudes and wonder if you have a favorite translation? And, have any of you memorized your favorite version? As always I shall be most grateful for any insights you have, as well as your prayers.