Sermons: Good, Bad and Ugly

I thought my Sunday sermon was going to a pretty good one. Things just fit together particularly well in the preparation, and I thought it was to be one of my better efforts. I was about two-thirds of the way through preaching it when I decided that maybe it wasn’t nearly as good as I thought. Not only did people seem to be tuning me out, but I noticed that they were tuning me out. When I’m really into preaching, a bomb could go off in the auditorium and I wouldn’t notice it. But that Sunday I noticed every yawn and puzzled look. Evidently what I thought was going to be a good sermon (at least on paper) wasn’t such a good sermon.

Yesterday was the other side of the coin. I really didn’t think the sermon yesterday was very good. It was one of those that changed directions in the middle of preparation, and I didn’t think it was crafted very well at all. I seemed to confirm that suspicion when I dozed off while reading over it early Sunday morning! Come on, when you fall asleep during your own sermon, that just can’t be a very good sign, right? But it actually came across pretty well in the delivery, and several people had good things to saw about much they appreciated the message and how badly they needed to hear it. Go figure!

This happens far too often to be a coincidence. I am open to the possibility that everyone realized how bad the sermon was and said all those nice things because they knew that I needed cheering up. It’s also possible that the listeners were more ready/open/needful yesterday and so the seed found more fertile soil. And it is further possible that I am just not a very good judge as to what makes a good sermon.

God uses things in His own way and His time. We don’t have to hit the ball out of the park for Him to do so! Was Paul talking about his preaching prowess when he said, “When I am weak, then am I strong?” So maybe I need more weak sermons for God to use in His own time? Of course, my church probably thinks that’s been my strategy all along. God doesn’t need our service to be the greatest; He only wants it to be faithful. He’ll supply what we lack in power, ability, imagination and all the rest. That is not an excuse for mediocrity in our service, but it is freedom from the feeling that everything is always up to us.