Sermonwerk

As freshmen, we have finally arrived at the starting point, in my opinion, of our real seminary education. Over this interim semester we were each assigned a Lord’s Day from the Heidelberg Catechism, and were told to prepare a sermon outline based on it. I was given Lord’s Day 10, on the providence of God, and I fired it off to Dr. Visscher just moments ago. That would be Dr. James Visscher, who is taking Dr. de Visser’s place this semester as the latter takes a sabbatical. You’re probably also aware that there’s a Dr. Gerhard Visscher, who happens to be the principal, which means that half the faculty right now is from the Visscher family. When you take into account that Dr. James Visscher’s son, Randall, is a second-year student, you begin to see the outlines of what may be a federation takeover. In the gross and scope of mine opinion, says Horatio, this bodes some strange eruption to our state.

But Canadian Reformed conspiracy theories aside, I am quite looking forward to learning the art of writing sermons. You may also be interested in how the process works, so I’ll share with you some tips and strategies as I learn. Who knows, if you pay close enough attention to this blog over the next four years, they just might Article 8 you.

We had a couple lectures last week from Drs. de Visser and Visscher on how to prepare a catechism sermon. They both gave us some handouts with detailed instructions. One of the first things we were told to do, after praying for insight, was to read the necessary Lord’s Day over and over. At first, this seemed a little strange. I mean, I have it memorized; how much more is there to know? But you find out quickly that there is plenty more to know, depending on how you emphasize various parts of the Lord’s Day. It called to my mind one of the the exercises we had to do for our public speaking workshop this past semester. The instructor, Richard Tomlin, asked us how many different meanings there were in the sentence, “I didn’t say I beat my dog.” At first I thought, I don’t know, two or three? Is this a trick question? But the truth is, there are as many meanings as there are words. He showed us this by making us say the sentence out loud seven times, each time emphasizing a different word:

I didn’t say I beat my dog.”
“I didn’t say I beat my dog.”
“I didn’t say I beat my dog.”

You can do the rest yourself. The point is, the same sort of concept can be applied to Lord’s Days. So do you emphasize “understand” in Q. 27, or “providence”? Or do you emphasize “benefit” or “still” in Q. 28? Again, in the answers you can take different angles every time, with one sermon focusing on the extent of providence, another that deals with peace in times of trouble. But of course, the sermon should explain the Lord’s Day as a whole as well. The idea is not to leave things out, but to explain everything that is there in a different light each time.

But that’s a little bit more advanced. For us beginners, we were told to find the main thought and to bring that out with three points. So I read it through a number of times, looking up the supporting Bible passages and scribbling notes as I went along. While the subject of LD 10 is straightforward enough, the three points were a little more elusive. Still, I came up with a theme and points that seemed to me to be pretty comprehensive and functional. That is, it won’t grab your attention, but it will summarize the material. Second-year Johan told us not to go with functional, but with fresh. The professors told us to go with functional. I went with functional. Here’s the result:

A right understanding of God’s providence will produce in our hearts:
1) Patience in adversity
2) Thankfulness in prosperity
3) Confidence in tomorrow

So that’s raw and unmarked. I’m not sure if it’s quality or not, but the fact that I was willing to share it here means I have some degree of confidence in it. The outline that went with it was a page long, but since I wrote out a full introduction and conclusion and double-spaced the whole business, it came to 4 ½ pages.

This weekend is the big CRTS conference, “Your Only Comfort.” There will be speeches and workshops, with each of the latter being run by a pair of students. I’ve been paired with fourth-year Ben. I think the seminary is pretty excited about this one; we’ve got 250+ people attending, with speeches being simulcast to locations in Canada, the United States, and the Netherlands.

I get a name-tag:
instanametag

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