I had a chance to have a good conversation last week with Pastor Schockman over in West Salem, WI. Part of our conversation drifted towards the task of sermon writing. It was interesting to hear what he had to say, mostly it was interesting because it seemed to be very much what I was thinking. Anyhow back to the point of this post. Pastor Schockman mentioned how on any given Sunday there really are 4 different sermons: the sermon he writes, the sermon he wanted to write, the sermon he preached, and the sermon he wanted to preach.
I’ve thought nearly the same thing. This especially occurs to me as I drive up the hill to my house after church each Sunday as I think to myself, “I should have said this or that” or “Why did I phrase that part that way?” So it got me thinking, what if I jotted down these little bits of addendum? True, that moment did pass as far as preaching, but all too often, there’s something in the text, mostly in how it connects to the Gospel that is just too good to keep quiet on. What do you think?
Here’s an example: This week’s Gospel reading (for the Historic Lectionary) was from the Sermon on the mount. It has 3 very memorable passages paraphrased briefly: “You can’t serve God and mammon”, “Seek first the kingdom of God”, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” Of course we tend to focus on the Law aspect, which can leave us in a miserable state once we figure out that we are worry warts, yet there is Gospel here as well: God will clothe you and feed you. So far, this is some of what you would have caught in the sermon.
But here are some somewhat randomly assembled (in no logical/rhetorical order) thoughts that I wanted to include in the sermon had I thought of it before I preached:
- First to the promise of clothing and feeding… how could I not have thought of this! Is this not exactly what does happen through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness and fed with His Body and Blood.
- I had thought regarding “you cannot serve two masters” and also how our Father in Heaven does provide for us: about a week ago I came across http://www.globalrichlist.com which shows where your salary lines up in contrast to the rest of the world. Now this can serve as a bludgeon of guilt… maybe it should at times, but my point in bringing up this website is to note just how we in fact have been monetarily blessed. Check it out.
- Finally (and this I did get to, just wasn’t sure if it was as clear as it could have been), with regards to the worries that we do have, the whole line of thought that if you just have faith you won’t have worries is at best not helpful and at worst, it can create serious doubt. So where do Christ and the Cross fit in? If we take Jesus at His word seriously, it is utterly crushing law as He quickly identifies all the idols we have set up, so rather than Jesus as a life coach to help us to not worry, we first need to see Him as the one who fulfills the very thing He teaches here. Jesus didn’t come to give us life tips like Dr. Phil: “You’re worrying about clothes, how’s that working for ya?” Rather, we must always see Christ in His primary role as a substitute standing in for the punishment that should have been ours. He trusted His Father, even when He was left naked, thirsty, dying and forsaken on a Cross. This is the true nature of what our Lord has done for us, precisely what we could not do. So the conclusion isn’t, “ok now go get on with the not worrying bit” (which like all Law, we’ve already been instructed, we know what we ought do), the conclusion is that you are given a gift: forgiveness, salvation, yes even the promise of eternal life which does away with the very things that cause you to worry.