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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Savouring the Sermon

I’d like to take a moment this morning to draw something to your attention. You can call it an exhortation if you like. Sometimes churches have a slot for exhortation, we don’t, but I feel it would be good to exhort us all on this point this morning. And I think this might be helpful for the children and young people in particular.

I’ve been listening to sermons my whole life, as many of us here have. So, I know first-hand that it’s easy to get a skewed view of the sermon part of our worship time together.

I used to think of the singing and praying parts of the service as the worship parts and the sermon part as the information part. The part where we learn. But that’s a mistake, and it took me a long time to learn that. The sermon is actually the pinnacle of our worship.

The sermon isn’t a lecture that conveys information – it is at least that but it’s more than that. Neither is it an exhortation that urges people to live a certain way – it is that at times but it’s more than that too. It is first a foremost a heralding of the one true and living God. It is a persuasive invitation to come and behold him, and in beholding him to be satisfied in him, and in being satisfied in him to overflow with praise for him – which is what worship is.

We can do listening and it not be worship, just like we can do singing and it not be worship. Worship is the overflow of delight in God. And that can either be present or absent.

There was a time in Israel’s history when a man called Ezra stood up to read the book of the law of God to the people and to explain and make clear its meaning. And as the people listened their hearts were moved by the God that was being revealed to them. As they listened, the record tells us they wept. They wept because they saw the holiness of God and they saw their own unrighteousness and waywardness. They were brought to heartfelt repentance by what they heard. And then Ezra told them to weep no more, but to go home and feast with rejoicing.

So that’s what the sermon part is all about. Our listening needs to be coupled with hearts that are soft and ready to encounter God. And as we listen and understand, we are supposed to be moved to repentance, or delight; to a deeper treasuring of God. It means that as we sit and listen, when we hear something that is so true and so good about God, we are moved to say ‘amen’, or ‘thank you’ or ‘yes lord’ or ‘praise be’. Maybe not out loud, though that’s fine if you feel compelled, but at least in our hearts.

So, I would like to exhort you to this kind of listening if you’re not familiar with it already. Or perhaps you are familiar with it, but you’ve lost the practice of preparing your heart in advance in prayer, and then sitting on the edge of your seat with open ears, poised and ready for the Spirit of God to awaken delight in your heart. If that’s you, then maybe this exhortation will have been useful.


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