Sunday's Guest Preacher
This past Sunday morning, my family and I didn't make it to church. Yes, I forgot to set the alarm and my wife and I slept late. We decided therefore to have church at home. iTunes provided the worship music, and Accordance provided the preacher: I read from Jonathan Edwards' famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
Why would I read the quintessential "hellfire and brimstone" sermon to my wife and children? My oldest son had recently read it for school, and when I asked him what he thought of it, his response was: "Well, Dad, it was pretty good, but he basically kept saying the same thing over and over again." That got me thinking that I needed to help him see the artistry and logical development of Edwards' sermon.
I've also been thinking a lot lately about what makes for a good sermon. My family moved to a new town recently and we've been visiting various churches in the area. Sadly, a great many of the sermons we've heard amount to little more than good advice with a smattering of Bible verses thrown in. I miss the meaty sermons of my former church, and it has made me want to read the work of some of history's great sermonizers.
Finally, the reading schedule of our regular family devotions (admittedly not as "regular" as they should be) would have had me reading the closing greetings of one of Paul's epistles, and I thought church at home on Sunday morning needed something a little harder hitting than "The brothers who are with me greet you."
Rather than reading the whole sermon straight through, we tackled it in sections. I would stop and explain the bits I thought the kids might not have understood completely, and then we would spend some time discussing them. Between the singing and the sermon our church service lasted a little over an hour, and we all agreed that the "guest preacher" had been pretty good. Edwards' careful argumentation, anticipation of every objection, and powerful imagery are a textbook example of effective preaching, and this 270 year old sermon was surprisingly timeless.
As you might expect, Accordance offers lots of opportunities to read sermons by those who had mastered the art of preaching. Had Edwards not already been on my mind, we could have heard from John Piper (who would probably urge us to read Edwards instead), a number of church fathers, Martin Luther, John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, B. B. Warfield, Richard Baxter, Charles Spurgeon, John Frame, and others.
The next time my wife and I sleep late and miss church, we'll have a stable of excellent guest preachers to choose from. And for those of you preachers who want to avoid putting anyone to sleep, exploring the work of these masters is sure to galvanize your own preaching.