Preaching is a big part of what I do; of the titles that I go by as “pastor,” one of my favorites is “minister of the Word and Sacrament.” Minister means “servant.” I’m literally, by that title, a “servant of the Word.”
To prepare for this task, I generally I aim to spend between 12-20 hours per week in sermon preparation and study. Not all of that is in book work or writing. Some of it, and more besides, is spent in meditation, prayer, and personal reflection as I try to apply and feel the weight of the word I intend to preach to others in my own soul. The following two proverbs are helpful in this regard:
Physician, heal thyself.
Watch your life and doctrine closely for in so doing you’ll save both yourself and your hearers.
With this as background, I am posting below a ten-point review of what I’ve preached over the past eighteen months or so, and some explanation as to why I’ve chosen what I’ve chosen.
- Luke’s Gospel. I believe that preaching through an entire Gospel from start to finish is very important in the early life of a new congregation; hence I preached through Luke (not without interruption) over the course of the last few years, for a total of 118 sermons, which concluded last Easter season (2015)
- Song of Songs. I took up a series of messages in the Book of The Song of Songs because of cultural issues related to marriage that seem to be increasingly important, as well as the fact that a mentor of mine Iain Duguid finished a commentary on that book and I heard him speak on that book last spring (2015) at a PCRT conference. Additionally, I knew very little about the Song and since it is a relatively short book I knew we could cover some timely topics in that series without making a long commitment.
- Acts of the Apostles. Starting the fall of 2015, I began a series of messages in the book of Acts as this was a continuation of my study in Luke (who wrote both books) and made sense for us as a church—the theme of these messages has been ‘Jesus is still at work in His Church’—to focus on Christ’s ongoing work among us through the Holy Spirit in spite of trials and difficulties we have faced. He is building His church.
- Advent 2015. I did not pause the sermon series for Advent specific messages, but incorporated the Christmas theme into the sermons from Acts in the months December and January. I try and alternate based on the Lord’s leading whether to pause the current sermon series for Christian-holiday-specific sermons, or not. We did have advent readings this year as we have had for several years.
- Lent 2016: Ezra. Starting with the Lenten season, I started a series of sermons in the book of Ezra (about eight messages total). I do not typically acknowledge the Lenten season with any specific teaching theme. Having said this, I have distributed a lenten devotion in the past, and we do mark the progress of Lent on our bulletin. I chose Ezra because I was moved with this phrase in the book “The good hand of our God was upon us” as I read it in my devotions earlier this year, as well as some sense from the Lord that the theme of exile is important for Christians to grasp in this day and age. Also with our desire to build or do some renovations to the space in which we meet, the Church House, I saw some theological overlap and implications for us from this book. Ezra proved to be one of the most rewarding and challenging sermon series I have preached in recent memory. (It also proved to be excellent preparation for the course I took in Ezekiel in August 2016.)
- Palm Sunday 2016. I did not preach a Palm Sunday sermon, nor did we recognize Palm Sunday. Someone(s) of you asked me about that and my response is as follows: a) it was simply an oversight; b) I do not place a high priority on explicitly commemorating Palm Sunday, partly probably because I have bad memories of growing up in the Methodist Church handing out palm branches this time of year and basically feeling like it was a “wasted Sunday”; c) I’m not sure anyone really grasps the real significance of this Sunday, I myself am still figuring it out; d) in retrospect, a reading would have been appropriate instead of not mentioning it all; however Will Bausch did mention at the beginning of his worship narration that day.
- Good Friday 2016. I preached from Zechariah on Good Friday because it was connected to Ezra—Zechariah was a contemporary of Ezra and preached during the time of Ezra. It was my way of concluding the Ezra series, by choosing one of the many messianic prophesies in Zechariah.
- Easter 2016. I did preach an Easter specific sermon this year from Matthew 26. This is the same text that John Piper chose for his easter sermon in 2004, though I expanded somewhat on his approach to the passage. I heard from some who thought it was a Good Friday sermon on Easter Sunday. I would love to dialogue with you about that if you had that impression.
- Spring 2016=Acts. This spring, I returned to Acts to finish the first portion of Acts, continuing the theme that “Jesus is still at work in His Church” (and this portion/segment will end somewhere mid chapter in Acts 11). This ended around Father’s Day, 2016.
- Exodus, Summer 2016. From June-August, Pastor Brent and I preached a series of sermons in Exodus (the first third of the book), which builds off of teaching and instruction he and I received at this year’s Simeon Trust workshop that delved into Exodus. That series of sermons not only aligned with our women’s Bible Study but also our children’s VBS program this past summer. Many said they recognized in the Exodus series repeated themes both from Ezra and in Acts. Because repetition builds learning and godly living, this is part of good discipleship for the congregation.
I’m currently preaching through Ephesians, a series which began in September and which, Lord willing, will take me up to Easter 2017. I’ll take a break from Ephesians this Advent season to preach through Mary’s Magnificat, a series of sermons which I preached for my first Advent season at my first church in north central Illinois in 2000.
My prayer is that God would have mercy on me as I seek to honor Him and His Word in the ministry of the Word. Would you also pray for me as I do “word work” (a phrase I like and borrowed from a pastor I appreciate) Sunday by Sunday.