Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Deja Vu preaching

As is obvious from my postings I am rarely invited to preach nowadays.  For this I am mostly grateful - only too aware that nearing 80 others should take my place.  But, in a couple of weeks I have another opportunity and, strangely, the Bluntisham church preaching plan gives me the same chapter in Ephesians as I preached in 2022.  Chapter 5!  I no longer have my notes so I thought I would dig out the recording on our church web site. My first thought was that having prepared a sermon I could recast it!  However, the listening experience was dismal. I knew that my voice has lost much power but, in addition, I seemed to be suffering from an irritating cough that, frankly, was extremely irritating to hear. With moderate self-criticism I confess the content it did not feed my soul though, in common with many preachers, I admit my general dislike of hearing myself..  

At the same time, my daily devotions came to Acts 14:1-7 as Paul and Barnabas continue their pioneering missionary preaching tour to reach Iconium. The NIV translates the end of verse 1: There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. I had missed that word effectively in past readings.  How extraordinary to use a quantitative word like that.  Presumably, the opposite applies that we can preach ineffectively!

I immediately went to find out what the original word is. All of us who preach long to be effective. What characterizes this particular preaching event?  I found the word effectively was an attempt to translate four Greek words, literally, to speak so as to believe. The KJV translates literally: They so spake that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. 'So spake' expresses a particular quality of speaking that God things happened. I guess that the NIV translation 'effectively' is as good as any way of expressing this particular quality. 

It is clear in Acts 14 something special occurred. God's Spirit moved in a powerful way through their speaking. God's involvement is strikingly confirmed  by accompanying signs and wonders. Yet their preaching was essential.  The bearing of immediate spiritual fruit in faith responses remains a glorious sign of effectiveness and, of course, there are  other desirable outcomes of biblical preaching, especially its role of upbuilding Christ's people.

However, the conjunction of hearing an old sermon with a challenge to effectiveness gave me a much needed jolt.  So I am working afresh, asking the Lord to wake me up to the new things he is saying to me that I should share.  Perhaps it might be worth sharing and who knows, past preparation may be leaking into the process!

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