Posts Tagged ‘expository preaching’

This weekend I reread one of my favorite sermons, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.  In searching online for the sermon, I realized that many people feel that Jonathan Edwards was a vindictive preacher who tried to scare people into Heaven.  When I read the sermon first (as a freshman, I think), I did not feel this way.  The sermon addressed for me the question of why bad things happen to good people.  The answer: 1) we aren’t good, and 2) things are not nearly as bad as we deserve.  Perhaps to a world unacquainted with the reality of God’s standard and justice, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is a revelation to them about the wrath of God.  I have known about Hell all my life, so the experience for me was one of overwhelmed humility and gratitude. 
The thing that struck me in reading the sermon this time was the first paragraph.  Edwards opens with a Scripture, from Deuteronomy.  (How often do we get sermons from Deuteronomy?)  And then he jumps directly into a history of Israel and a theological exposition of the text with application.  There is no opening story or illustration.  His words have force, sincerity, and truth.  I miss that.  Whoever invented the sermon fill-in-the-blank format?  Insert verse here.  Insert joke.  Add story.  Make point.  Alliterate sub-points.  More anecdotes.  Are we truly so illiterate in the things of God that we need entertaining stories, quotes, references to sports stars, and comics to enable us to understand? 
Now I’m not objecting to occasionally presenting an illustration from life.  Just don’t force it.  Jokes?  I’m pretty much against those in sermons.  God and truth are a serious business.  We can be seriously jubilant about God’s grace and glory, but that’s not the same as joking, is it?  Telling a joke as part of a sermon seems like an appeal to our desire for entertainment, which most pastors would profess to be against.  Church is not entertainment, they argue. 
I’ve noticed that I have a longer attention span for the Jonathan Edwards style of teaching than for the modern light sermon.  Don’t get me wrong; I love my pastor, and am challenged by his heart to see change in people.  But I get tired in his sermons, and wonder when they will be over.  At a Bible conference, however, I can sit for an hour and more just soaking up truth, furiously taking notes on things I’ll process later, saturated already with so many messages connecting and resonating inside of me. 
Later this weekend a friend was inviting me to visit her church, sharing exactly what I have been craving, that this pastor jumps right into the Bible, so rich and full and relevant.  And the other men of the church, who occasionally share Scriptures that God has laid on their hearts, are walking with God and you can tell.  How?  They share with boldness and humility, and they are sharing from the prophets, from parts of the Bible some people don’t even know exist.  These men were reading the Bible during the week, encountering God in the passages so many never set eyes or ears on.  What a blessing! 
So, free of responsibilities at my church this week, I’m going to practice church-straddling, and visit the congregation to which my friend invited me. 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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