At Calvary Memorial Church this morning the preacher, Dr. Todd Wilson, asked a question. I was visiting because friends were dedicating their baby. He began a series on Titus called: Becoming Zealous for Good Works, emphasizing in Titus 1:1-4 how preaching is God's primary means by which he creates a people who are zealous for good works. Following the text closely he said about preaching:
Its REASON lies in God's revelation. By his preached word God re-reveals himself;
Its CONTENT concerns Scripture with Christ central to its exposition;
Its PURPOSE - is to increase knowledge of the truth and faith that leads to godliness.
But at one point he asked us: "What is the high point of your week?" He suggested different Saturday activities with friends and family that we might choose as high points. But, in sharp contrast (and as you might expect) he said: "My prayer is that your high point is to come together and listen to God's word in preaching." Sermons = high point.
That deserves a reality check! I think for preachers themselves it's often true, because they are working towards that high point - it fills the horizon. But when preachers sit in the congregation I wonder whether they make matching spiritual investment to hear others? And what about average sermon listeners? Is there high expectation? I know it ought to be true. Yet, often I suspect it's not. Sometimes it's because they have never thought of it as a possible high point, or they have been disappointed by past experiences. Or they just don't think about the need to prepare themselves for something potentially so special. (If you have low expectations it's likely to fulfill them!) Or, there isn't any awareness of how properly to respond anyway. Or...or.... Anyway, the question made me think. What about you?
Sunday, May 31, 2009
What is the "high-point of your week?"
Posted by MichaelQuicke at 6:50 PM
Labels: sermon expectation
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I humbly take issue with that pastor's idea that the sermon should be the high point of the week. I love to hear a sermon that makes me think and challenges me to examine my life. But a sermon, to me, is simply one part of a worship service, a service where I go to be formed out of my secular culture and into my sacred culture.
Here is a comparison I was just thinking about this past Sunday. Over the years I have heard many, many sermons. The most recent one was on the subject of being content with what God has provided. I make an effort to listen to sermons and I find that God always provides new ways of looking at the subject or reminding me of ways I had forgotten. But even a couple of weeks after this sermon, I'll most likely not remember anything specific about it, just the overall idea of being content.
But let me sing "Great is Thy Faithfulness" at a service or at home and the verse that says "morning by morning new mercies I see" and I will powerfully remember what God does for me and I can be content. Of course I've sung that song for over 50 years now. I don't need a hymnal or even a piano. :-) (Now don't get me wrong, the best for me is in a service with many other people singing it). But my point is a song that I know, that I have sung over and over, also forms my thoughts and character and will be more available to me than a particular sermon.
Music is not the only part of a service that is important to me, it's just the one I'm using for my example.
This was a good question and one to consider seriously. Where are we putting our priorities? Do I value the Lord the most above all else in my life. Dr. Wilson did make me think. I asked myself and the Lord, Should the sermon be my high point? Coming together as the body to worship is a high point and a big part of that is the sermon (along with Adult Bible Fellowship time when we study the word). But I wondered critically if it was made to be” the” high point of my week. I thought, maybe or maybe not.
I know that I do have high points to my week and Dr. Wilson’s points were well taken that my social engagements should not be my high points since I am an alien here, send with a purpose. But over and above that point, I wondered if my individual times with the Lord should be the high point? My personal pray time, reading his word, studying it when I have been completely transparent and am renewed from within by his power, those are high points for me. I find more joy in both though. Also, there are times that worshipping in song together with fellow believers can be a high point also.
I have heard many sermons that have not been high points. The word is always good but the exegesis is not always. I think part of what is making me ask this question is because I do not hear the Lord through every preacher. I hear the Lord through his Word, but not every preacher. Every preacher does not teach the Word truly. If the preacher is in tune with the Spirit, I hear the Lord. If he is not, I don’t. If he’s not, the sermon is definitely is not a high point. I still think that the high point for me relates to my own personal relationship with the Lord, the personal intimacy, rather than growth through another’s study and intimacy. I would rather know the Lord through my own relationship with Him rather than know him through you. It isn’t that I don’t want that part of the relationship; it’s that I think my own relationship leads to deeper intimacy and therefore a higher point for me. I would say that I gain so much in terms of depth and breadth of knowledge by listening to sermons but I need to take what I have heard back to Him, in thoughtful meditation and with questions about how it relates to me before it is raised to that level of which Dr. Wilson speaks. So, I’m not sure I agree yet. I’d be willing to hear others points of view though.
I realize though if I look at the Old Testament that it looks like the Lord would like Israel’s time with him at the Tabernacle and subsequently the Temple, and by extension today the church, to be the focal point of our week. That alone speaks volumes.
There was one additional interesting point that Dr. Wilson made. He said that the congregation is somewhat accountable before the Lord for the content of the preaching. I wondered how we impact the content of the sermon generally. I know you Michael are inclusive in your preparation frequently and individuals would have some input in those instances.
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