We’ll begin with a Sixteen Seasons bonus: sermon session screenshots!
You get filmed delivering your sermon so that you can go home afterwards and study the flaws in your presentation. So just to make it look like I was doing a good job up there, I picked the only four times that I looked up from my iPad. Ok, it wasn’t that bad; but I was extremely nervous. Standing up in front of a group of people is bothersome enough; having to look them in the eye and tell them to “repent, or God will cut you down,” is something else entirely. I was barely done my introduction when my mouth had gone completely dry, leaving me with little more than a gummy tongue and cracked lips to work with.
I start here with my presentation because that was the part I was least satisfied with, and most critiqued for. The biggest problem was that I had gone too fast. Dr. de Visser said that it’s good to slow down and pause for a while, to let people catch up and to allow the Spirit to do it’s work. At which point someone asked, “So, are you saying he was going too fast for the Holy Spirit?” We had a good chuckle, but point taken: I ran through a 3200-word sermon in twenty minutes. That being said, going too fast is the number one issue that students, or anybody learning to speak publicly, have to overcome. You’ve got the old fight-or-flight response up there, and the natural reaction is to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. So it does take some guts.
My sermon wasn’t perfect by a long shot. I went in there having no idea what to expect. As I mentioned previously, it’s a short, relatively boring parable that doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of meaning. Which means it can often be taken to mean whatever the interpreter wants it to mean. So when you’re preaching on a text like this you have to be careful to stay consistent, but also to stay believable. If you start pushing the details too far, and you start finding meanings in every little part, then your sermon won’t be very convincing. It’s going to look like you’re making things up.
So there’s that struggle which comes with parables in general, but this particular passage presented its own trouble. Christ had been telling the crowds to “repent, or you will all likewise perish,” and this parable was the illustration of that. Because it’s an urgent call to immediate repentance, judgment is the major theme, and there really isn’t much grace. You can go one of two wrong directions, then. You can either focus too heavily on the judgment and neglect to mention that Christ died and rose again between then and now, thus ushering in a new era of history; or you can pull in too much grace and deaden the impact that this call to repentance should still have today. The biggest struggle in writing this sermon was walking that fine line. It was near the end, when I had most of it written, that I had the bright idea to look in the Canons of Dort to find that line. Sure enough, Canon 5.4 had the answer I was looking for, and much of my application flowed from there.
Nevertheless, I was critiqued for not being balanced enough, but I will let you read my sermon and figure out where I erred. In fact, I made some decent-sized blunders throughout. Nothing heretical, mind you, and nothing that would have outright sunk me at classis, but blunders nonetheless. But like I said, I will post it and you can haul out your homiletical gloves and get dirty. Maybe you sometimes feel guilty for doing that after sermons on Sunday, and maybe you should feel guilty. But I’m giving you the opportunity here to swing your critical wrecking ball with gleeful abandon. And in case you think it was all bad, I received some very encouraging words as well. In fact, the whole experience was more rewarding than anything else, and fairly and constructively done. I wouldn’t be posting my sermon here if it had been poorly received. Anyways, I’ll post it separately.