We sat through one of the very worst sermons in 5.5 years last Sunday evening. Fortunately, it was not by the regular clergy, though I was a bit cross that with 3 preaching pastors, not to mention several others on staff, none of the full-time clergy could have stepped up to the plate.
The person who took the sermon was a student from the famous local vicar-factory, who will soon be a curate. His passage was the famous one on faith and works from James.
I have to admit the guy irritated me by his delivery–blazing eyes, nose wrinkled in disgust, cold disgusted eyes sweeping the congregation as if he were a modern day Savonarola.
He kept indicting the congregation as “Christian hypocrites” without any concrete suggestions on how we can tackle the endless sea of possible good works within the limitations of time, energy, resources, and other duties each of us have.
Indictment, criticism, condemnation. Continued for well over the allotted time. I could feel the joy in the congregation leach out.
I was reminded again of what I recently learnt. Satan, diabolus in Greek, means accuser, slanderer. The Holy Spirit is the advocate, the comforter, the consoler, the one who speaks for you.
So I tried not to listen to the sermon too hard, or get too annoyed at his delivery. I did not sense the Holy Spirit, nor the love of Jesus for people.
But how does one give a good sermon on a subject on which it is inevitable that there will be a gap between the congregation’s life and ideals.
Self-examination and repentance.
Ask, “Does my life mirror my faith? If not, in what way? What can I do about it?”
Then you come in humility and repentance, as a sinner among sinners, sharing what you have learnt from your sins and failures, and how you hope to do better.
And because it is simple, concrete and practical, your hearers may well get more take-away value than from a tirade.
This was something I learned from Paul Miller’s Love Course. Use your annoyance with other people as a trigger to repentance. How do I do the same thing which so annoys me in you? How can I repent of it? Then you yourself are better and stronger and different–even if the other person is unchanged.
Which I will now proceed to do!!