Posted in Moments of grace

I think I connected

I had a couple of moments this morning when I knew I had connected with the congregation. The first was during the children’s sermon. As the three little ones watched and listened, I explained to them that I had been painting my son-in-law’s house the previous afternoon. It was really hot, and I thought I might still be thirsty today, so I brought a drink along with me. I then produced a can of Pepsi.

My son-in-law, our praise service music leader works for Coca-Cola, so we avoid Pepsi products like the plague. We rarely even say the P-word out loud. When my daughter, his wife, saw the can she audibly gasped with a huge “OH NO” look on her face. It was priceless!

But I had it all planned. I then produced the outside of a Coke can to cover it up. Then, because I really shouldn’t be drinking soda, I used the outside of a can of Lacroix seltzer to cover that up. You can watch my whole message here.

What was the point? We often try to cover up what we’ve done wrong. But God does a better job of covering up our sin with His forgiveness (Psalm 32). That’s why we confess, or admit what we’ve done. We’ve got the promise of His mercy.

The second connection came about two-thirds of the way through my sermon when I asked, “Did you ever eat something at home and hide the wrapper so no one would know?” I got an immediate chuckle from more than a few of the congregation. Obviously I’m not the only one who does that. We just need to remember that God does a much better job of covering up our guilt.

I can’t always tell if I’ve connected with people on a Sunday morning. It’s a blessing when I know I have.

Posted in communication, Ministry, preaching

What makes a sermon “good?”

Photo by Brandable Box on Unsplash

The other day I was pondering the question, “What makes a sermon good?” What makes it effective, memorable, inspiring, applicable and edifying? Can it even be all of those things at the same time? I know that some sermons are none of those things. Every preacher has a dud or two somewhere in their files. But if someone comments, “Boy, that was great!” what moved them to say that? Was it short, funny, convicting or reassuring?

I’ve come to believe that a sermon that touches my own heart will connect with others, too. Perhaps that’s the best quality for a sermon to have. It connects an ancient scripture with contemporary life. It moves from a page in the bible to a place in your mind. It connects the Creator with his creatures. It allows the thoughts and feelings of a prophet or a king or a fisherman to resonate with a parent, a waitress, a student or a welder.

The moment of truth comes when somewhere in my preparation, a word, a phrase, an image or an event suddenly strikes a nerve. It’s hard to describe, but I know it when it happens. It might be a moment of conviction, relief, surprise or joy. But at that moment, I know I have something to say.

For example, I’m preaching on the transfiguration of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel this Sunday (Matthew 17:1-9). The disciples get to see a side of Jesus they’ve never seen before and never get to see again. All kinds of glory wrapped up in a very plain human package. There it is. Great things like computers or gifts are wrapped and shipped and arrive at my house in very plain packages. Church and ministry might seem boring and unexciting, but don’t ever forget all that glory wrapped up in “the body of Christ.”

That’s the thought process that got me to Tuesday. Now I have something to say. I’m still putting it all together for Sunday. But I’ve made a connection. I pray that my hearers will, too.

Posted in aging, church, Life, Ministry

“I don’t want to be too far from church.”

Photo by Cassie Boca on Unsplash

Over the past few weeks I’ve been spending time with families who are making some big decisions about their living situation. For a variety of reasons, they may not be able to continue living in their homes and are exploring other options, from moving in with family to assisted living and long term care. This can never be an easy decision to make. For some, the decision is being made for them by family who are taking a greater role in caring for them. For others, the handwriting is on the wall, and they know that hour is coming.

A common theme in our discussions is church. One of their concerns is not wanting to lose access to their church family, involvement and worship. Among the many financial, health and transportation issues that must be addressed, their faith life rose to the top, like cream atop the milk. Continue reading ““I don’t want to be too far from church.””