Some of you know the story of when I preached at my father’s ordination (and some of you were actually there). I was young then, full of vim and vigor (which in this case should probably be translated as “young and foolish”), and so I threw everything I had into that sermon.
I repeatedly referred back not only to the original Greek, but also back to even more ancient Hebrew words as well. I quoted widely and freely to further make my points, even including an extensive passage from Sinclair Lewis. On and on I went, barely pausing for breath, for a full 45 minutes.
It was a brilliant sermon, if I do say so myself.
Afterwards, a wise old priest named Alan Purdom (who also came to be a dear friend) said, “Rob, that was a great sermon. All three of them.” I have never forgotten that comment, nor ceased to appreciate it.
I’d also like to think that it has also actually done me some good, though some would surely debate that point. Finding and sticking to that one sermon each week that really needs to be preached continues to be quite a challenge. But if preaching is more about transformation than information--as I think it is--such focus and clarity is essential. Lots of information, as impressive as it can be, can itself be a distraction, tempting people to think of sermons an intellectual exercise in the assimilation of data rather than being about real life change.