BY REV. DAVID MERRITT |
In case you missed it, the beginning of the sermon really comes at the end. That is perhaps the greatest lesson in sermon preparation or listening that you might ever hear. It is not that the other words are less important or the content either. It is to say, the sermon at its conclusion begs a question; are you ready to make these words part of your walk in faith?
Over the years I have prepared a number of sermons. In all honesty, some of those sermons would not be shared in worship ever again. They were at best my attempt to make the truth of the Gospel approachable. At their worst, they may have crossed the line between what is necessary to say and what I personally have to say about a text – more eisegesis than exegesis.
And I have erred in my effort to address difficult topics in worship as well. I often feel that those topics should be considered in Bible study or in small group settings simply because of the lack of opportunity to work through the “ups and downs” of biblical interpretation. Needless to say, hindsight is mostly 20/20 – at least in my life.
But back to the beginning, or the conclusion. The conclusion of the sermon allows the listener to come to a moment of decision, awareness or challenge in their faith journey. It is a moment in the sermon/homily when the preacher places a sign on the window of the church – “Come inside and choose to make a difference in your life.”
So, what is the conclusion of my blog post today? I could choose several in all honesty.
Sermons are difficult to write and difficult to actually put into practice.
When looking at the text, be sure to hear what the scripture in question is asking of you, the preacher and the listener.
Always imagine yourself in the pew, instead of the pulpit; what impact will your words have on another’s life?
Being challenged to put into practice a principle/precept or article of faith is easier said than done.
And (with thanks to my Seminary Education) at least at the conclusion of the Sermon ask yourself as the Preacher – “Can you in all honesty be open to hearing criticism?”
Maybe this blog is a bit risky in terms of being honest with myself with over forty years of being asked to offer the message/sermon/meditation in many different situations and contexts. But when I look back at my training at Seminary and the sincerity of those who taught me, I wanted to honor their efforts with these thoughts.
So, conclusions are the beginning of putting our faith into practice, allowing the Word to become alive in our lives to the point that others might see Christ in us. Be at peace, Friend Traveler. You are not alone. We are on this journey together.
About the author
The Rev. David Merritt is a retired Pastor, former Dean, Outreach Director, and Chaplain, but he’s “papa” according to his grand-kids. David loves God, Laurel Ridge, and his family. He has enough sense to get out of the rain but prefers raindrops anyway.
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