Sermon preparation in perspective

I went to bed at around 1am this morning, I had been preparing my sermon for today. My wife was up several times after that to our 16-month-old son who has a bad cold, then I got up at 7:30am because he was awake and ready for his day to start, and I needed to finish my sermon.

So while I was furiously editing my sermon notes, my son got told off for pulling the power cable out of the computer (it’s a laptop so the battery preserved my work!) and my daughters both got grumped at for interrupting me to have their legitimate needs met (i.e., food, clothing). I regret all of these, but the words, “will you just go away!” that I spoke to my son rang in my mind as I drove to the hospital three hours later.

I had just begun presenting my sermon when I was given the message that my wife and son were in the Emergency Department at the hospital because he was struggling to breathe. I arrived to see my little boy distressed, labouring hard, panting and gasping to fill his lungs with air. What I valued then was the quick prayer offered by my Christian family as I left the church, the sermon was forgotten. Though my lousy behaviour towards those I love was not forgotten.

Which gets me thinking about Richard’s post yesterday, about choices. There were a lot of choices involved in this situation. I had been making choices all week about priorities and the result of those was that I was still preparing my sermon on Sunday morning. I made choices about how to respond to legitimate demands on my time by my own children. I was doing what I ought to be doing, meeting a commitment I had previously made for the good of God’s people. But I also have my responsibilities as a father and God does not condone irritable preachers over faithful parenthood (see Ephesians 6:4).

I am not saying that preaching is not important, Paul charges Timothy to preach the word, being ready in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). Paul also commends study and the work of preparation to teach God’s people (2 Timothy 2:15, and 1 Timothy 4:16). But notice that in 2 Timothy 4:2 the charge to Timothy is to preach with complete patience. There is no place in Christian ministry for irritability. God calls me to live in gentleness and patience, bearing with others in love (Ephesians 4:2). The importance of diligently preparing a sermon (or worship program, or childrens ministry or youth group activity) is very small compared with the importance of obeying the law of Christ.

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