Summary: Preaching has taken over my life!
July 12, 2015
Opening words: I love this story. There was a pastor who never prepared his sermons in advance. His name was Ralph. Every Sunday morning he'd sit on the platform while the church was singing the hymns, desperately praying, "Lord, give me your message, Lord give me your message." One Sunday, while desperately praying for God's message, he heard the Lord speaking to him. The Lord said, "Ralph, here's my message. You're lazy!" Let me say this clearly. Preaching is hard work.
This is sermon number twenty-seven in my sermon series called Church Planting. During the summer months, I have been preaching through the Book of Acts. This is no small task, because Acts has so much to offer. I believe the Holy Spirit is vital to our future success. Human effort and determination are not enough to revive the church. It is the Holy Spirit who created the church originally, and it must be the Holy Spirit who revives the church again. With this understanding, let us look at our scripture lesson for today, Acts 13:13-15. Let me call this message My Addiction.
Acts 13:13-15 13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. 14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”
Years ago, on the editorial page of the British Weekly, this provocative letter was published:
It seems ministers feel their sermons are very important and spend a great deal of time preparing them. I have been attending church quite regularly for 30 years and I have probably heard 3,000 of them. To my consternation, I discovered I cannot remember a single sermon. I wonder if a minister's time might be more profitable spent on something else?
That letter triggered a great debate that went on for weeks. It ended with this letter:
I have been married for 30 years. During that time I have eaten 32,850 meals--mostly my wife's cooking. Suddenly I have discovered I cannot remember the menu of a single meal. And yet . . . I have the distinct impression that without them, I would have starved to death long ago.
That leads me to some interesting questions. How many sermons have you heard in your life? How many sermons do you actually remember? Do you think that God made a mistake calling preachers to change the world? If that makes you think, say, “Amen!”
This morning we find ourselves in the thirteenth chapter of Acts. Do you remember what has happened in the past? The answer is, a great deal. It will have to suffice to say that Paul and Barnabas are on their first missionary journey. According to the text, they are on the island of Cyprus. Their method is simple. They have been going into various communities, locating the synagogue and telling people about Jesus. The people seem to be open to their message. Last time, we were told even the proconsul, or the governor of the island, wanted to hear about Jesus.
This week, we are told Barnabas and Paul are in Pisidian Antioch. That community was the hub of trade in that area. It had a large Jewish population, so a synagogue was easy to locate. The order of worship must have been familiar to them. They heard the appropriate pieces of scripture, the Law and the Prophets. What came next was of no surprise to them. Visiting rabbis were always asked to speak. The synagogue rulers were more than inviting. They said, to quote verse 15, “”Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement, please speak.” I read that verse one time and got it. They were not just asked to speak and tell them about life in Jerusalem. The rulers didn’t want to hear about their adventures. The rulers didn’t want to hear the latest news. They were asked to do much more. They were asked to preach, because the rulers wanted to know if God had a word for them. They did not have a clue how their theology was about to change. Standing in a room filled with strange faces, Paul didn’t just talk, he preached about God’s plan of salvation for the world. In other words, he told them about Jesus. I have no doubt about the next line. If I had been there, I would have preached too. I love to preach, I love talking about Jesus. I have discovered in the past few decades that preaching is not just my calling, it is my addiction. It is important to me that I be the best preacher possible, because preaching is important. It is how God has chosen to save the world. And all of God people said, “Amen!”