Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sermons and the importance of the Divine Call

Rev. McCain over on his blog has brought up some real food for thought and his own concerns about the length and content of sermons. It is certainly something for a new pastor like myself to think about and I have been.

My thoughts on sermon length and the content are simple: it should be as long as it takes to tell your flock that they are sinners who deserve nothing more than eternal damnation from a holy and just God; God, the One Holy Trinity, has looked upon His people in mercy and has sent His only begotten Son, true God and true man, to earth to live the holy life we are unable to live, to die as a holy, perfect and complete offering for our sins, and to be raised to new life for our complete justification. This Jesus Christ is our sufficiency, our completeness and in Him we live new lives. In Him we are everything God wants us to be.

All of Scripture makes this clear, as Christ is the key to understanding all of Scripture. If you need 30-45 minutes to say this, so be it, as pastors, called and ordained servants of the Word, you know what your sheep need and how to best give it to them, even if that means a 5 minute sermon. Also as pastors it is your duty to teach the congregation. That can also be done with the good Law and Gospel sermon, but the main goal, in my mind, is not teaching, but reminding the people of who they are , what they deserve and what they have been freely given. The best time for going into greater depth on a text or the doctrines of the Church is in regular catechesis, that happens everyday, in every service, in every sermon, in every Bible Study, etc.

I think it is good to bring these issues up, however it must be done with care. Telling lay-people on a public blog that 10-15 minute sermons are"sermonic starvation" has a real danger of undermining the office of the Holy Ministry, and, although it is good for pastors and lay-people to consider, it must be emphasized that there is not a divine command from Scripture that sermons do anything other than preach Christ and Him crucified for sinners. Anything else falls within the realm of faithful pastoral ministry and Christian freedom.

So, parishioners, listen to what your pastors are saying. A lecture has its place, but it does not save sinners. A sermon, one that is truly faithful, makes the feet of the bearer beautiful, as he, through a divine call, has published salvation for a people in desperate need. Don't assume that a 15 minute sermon is not feeding the flock, for if it preaches our dear Lord and what He does for us in spite of ourselves, it truly is the Word of eternal life!


Chaz said...

Excellent thoughts, dear brother!

Thanks for contributing to the conversation. I rambled on it a bit over at chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com

jWinters said...

Nice post Jim! I think you're right that it is for the pastor to decide what the length of the sermon is. I mean, we are staring the congregation down. We can see when they start to nod off.
Regulating a sermon by time is a mistake in the first place. I just don't preach 30 minute sermons. I guess it is what I was trained not to do by growing up as a pastor's kid and via some of the things that CSL taught us.
Baptist seminarians may think that a 30 minute sermon is excessively short.
What should be more important is content. If you can go for 30 minutes and not make things repetitive or over the head of 90% of your parishioners - I say go for it. If you can get one clear point across in 10 minutes that everyone will replay in their head through the week - then go for that.
in Christ,

Jim Roemke said...

Chaz and Jay,
All of us being new to the Holy Office can certainly benefit from the advice and conversation of older brothers, however, let no one despise you because of your age. God has called us, in our youth, to preach His Word to His people. Something that has been difficult for me as a newbie sole pastor is the constant fear that I am not doing enough or that I am doing something wrong, or that my elder peers won't like me, etc. But the reality is, I, like you both, have received a divine call. Our good Lord will not forsake us when He Himself has called us. Be bold in being a young pastor, but not foolish, be ready to stand alone, but do not forsake your peers or the fathers that have gone before you. Do not be afraid to be your own person, but be honest about that person's strengths and weaknesses. And most imporantly, never boast in anything save the precious cross of Jesus Christ.