A sermon to summarise
When I am training first time preachers, one of the issues with which we have to contend is eagerness. In itself, of course – it is an asset. The church of Jesus Christ needs preachers who are keen to preach. The problem arises when a new preacher wants to put everything they have ever thought about preaching into one sermon. In the end, that poor sermon ends up like a little boat inundated by the waves of their own enthusiasm – and takes preacher and crew to the bottom together.
I am not a new preacher, but I find myself facing a similar problem. After arriving in Teddington Baptist Church in July of 1997, I am now preparing to preach my last ever sermon as the church’s pastor. This morning the people who sit before me will be those whom I have married, whose children I have dedicated, whose loved ones I have buried. Together we have met challenges, and sometimes triumphed over them. We have found ourselves engaged in that glorious act of smelting whereby the resolve of God’s people is turned into the steel of the Kingdom. Once in a while we have caught each other’s faces illuminated in the fiery glow of the furnace -occasionally streaked with tears and often bearing the sweat of our labours. We have been bound together…and today our ways part.
Like the first-time preacher, I find myself with far more to say than any one sermon can possibly bear. It is maybe a time to say less, not more. The legacy I leave behind is not in my hands, and will certainly not be changed by one sermon. Instead, I must do what every preacher does – hold tightly to the Word and wait patiently for the Spirit.
Just before I left my (nearly empty) office on Friday, I rearranged the drawing pins on the empty noticeboard into the message below. It was a phrase often used by Mother Teresa to encourage her fellow workers when the going was tough and the human cost was high. This sermon, like the hundreds which preceded it, must be all for Him.