Sermons 101 —Introduction.

A letter to the editor from Carl Popkey

Sermons 101 —Introduction.
Why do so many seminarians/vicars have no idea how to prepare/deliver a sermon? The article by Pastor Teuscher was outstanding (Where’s Walther, The Canadian Lutheran, May/June 2010). I have had my ears assaulted by many a so-called sermons that left me wondering what did I hear? They left me cold. Now, Pastor Teuscher has outlined the essence of a good sermon. Seminarians/vicars and also pastors, please take note. This must be the introduction to a course on sermons.

Sermons 102— Length/Delivery.
What gives? A ten minute platitude? This seems to be the norm lately. How can you do justice to Sermons 101 if you limit the length of the sermon to 10/15 minutes? As a pew sitter, I am not pleased with such. To me the sermon is the one thing I look forward to each Sunday. I don’t expect something I could have read by myself from the Bible, or listened to on the radio, or watched on the tube—a “pat on the back” sermon. Why should I waste my time to attend church for a 10-minute nice-that-you’re-here message. Please don’t insult me! No sermon worth its salt is less than 20 minutes. With five minutes for the introduction, five minutes to windup, leaves ten minutes to deliver a good LAW/GOSPEL sermon. Enlighten me, uplift me!
Of course some preachers may go overboard. Remember, pew sitters have to commit what is said to memory. How much can they retain? At times a provocative statement is made. One ponders it; the sermon goes on, now what did I miss that was important? And if your memory is like mine, aging fast, I find I retain less and less as time goes on. Pewsitters don’t have the script in their mitts like the preacher has in his; so how much can the pew sitter absorb to memory? What is the max? My rule of thumb is a maximum of 30 minutes, anything more you are pushing it.

Sermons 103 — Research.
Background is important. Quotes at times are necessary and need explanation at times. Too many quotes do not a sermon make. A little fire and brimstone at times helps. To drone on is boredom. Verbal punctuation is essential sometimes. Preacher, be convinced yourself, now convince me. I’ll love you for it!

Sermons 104 — Pew Sitter Expectations.
Why am I sitting here, in a pew? What are my expectations? Start on time! Assault me with a wonderful sermon! Don’t make it something to endure! Don’t make it something too short and too sweet, though a pat on the back at times is kinda soothing. It is not an easy task to keep one’s mind on the whole service: crying babies, disruptive behaviour, hard seats, unfamiliar hymns, long prayers. One needs God’s help to concentrate. Love Him!
Now, here you have it — a course about sermons. There can be a lot more. I’ll let you expand it and fill in the details.

Carl Popkey
Windsor, Ontario

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