Summary: Many sermons are quickly forgotten! The way to remember a sermon is to go and put it into practice. Jesus asks his disciples to go, make, baptise and teach. We're called to do the same.
I was looking at a website this morning called Kolij Misry (College Misery) which was discussing the so-called Last Lecture phenomenon. In other words, college lecturers were asking each other this question: If you had one last lecture, one last class to give, what would you spend your time on? What would you talk about? What kind of class would you want in front of you, seniors, grad students, freshmen (forgive the terminology, it was American after all …God bless America!), all the students you never taught right the first time? Would there be tears? Would there be laughter? Would there be gin?
Some sermons by Vicars are not at all memorable. In fact I can’t even remember the last time I said that.
Joseph Trenaman found that listening to more and more material in a lecture seemed to interfere with learning from the earlier lecturing.
A class listening to 15 minutes of lecture remembered 41% of what was presented; those listening to 30 minutes remembered 23% of the material presented in the first 15 minutes; those listening to 45 minutes remembered only 20% of the material presented in the first 15 minutes – and I can see that some of you are displaying a glazed look already, understandably.
Most material from most sermons is forgotten very quickly; so could it be that the less I say the better? Or could it be that we, together, will learn more by hearing and doing, rather than just hearing? For example, I didn’t learn to cook by reading a book or listening to a lecture. I watched my mum, I helped my mum, and in later life I had a go at it myself, reading the recipe and putting it into practice at the same time. My Mum would say, “Chop those and put them into the pan.” The recipe book says, “Add the chicken and a tin of tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes”. My job is to hear or read and then to do it.
Today’s Bible passage is a record of the last talk given by Jesus according to Matthew. Remember where I started just a few minutes ago? If you had one last lecture, one last class to give, what would you spend your time on? What would you talk about?
Jesus instructs his disciples to go. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them …and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (28:19-20). At the end of our service this morning I will encourage you to ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’; and it’s by going and doing that we put into practice the teaching and the life of Jesus.
Friends, we’re not classroom, theoretical Christians. After two years at Theological College I was bursting to go and do! I’d begun to feel like a classroom Christian, buried in my books and my essays. As good as they were - essays are no replacement for going, making, baptising and teaching.
The last sentence in Matthew’s gospel is this: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (28:20). The promise is not that Jesus will be with me as I hide away in my study or in the garden – even though he is with me then; but the promise is that as we go, make disciples, baptise new believers and teach them what Jesus commanded – He will be with us always to the very end of the age. As we go to love and serve the Lord he will be with us always to the very end of the age.
This is not my last sermon. But the thing about this short sermon is that in should be the longest sermon I will ever preach – because a sermon is not just about hearing. It is about reading, hearing and doing. So the sermon goes on into the doing and the going, with the words of Jesus ringing in our ears, whispering to us, calling us, getting our attention, visiting that neighbour, praying with that friend, sharing our faith in what we do and what we say.