During my life as a pastor, I preached over 1,500 different sermons. I preached on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and special holidays. I preached at weddings and funerals and even in a few hospital rooms. Each time I preached, I expected that whoever was in the congregation was listening and taking sermons personally.
I try to do the same when I listen to sermons. At Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church we have been enjoying a sermons series on 1 Corinthians 13. The first week the sermon was on 1 Corinthians 13:4c-5a: “Love is not boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way.” The second week the sermon was on 1 Corinthians 13:5b: “Love is not irritable, it keeps no record of wrongs.” I told Tom that I felt the sermon the first week applied more to him but the sermon the second week applied more to me. He told me I seemed to be taking sermons personally.
I was a little surprised at this statement. After all, Tom has been listening to me preach for years! Did this mean he never felt any of them applied to him? I’m pretty sure some of them did! I’m pretty sure some of them were directed entirely at him!
His statement also made me remember the dozens of times when I wrote a particular sermon with a certain person in mind and that person never felt it applied to him or her. Instead, some member of the congregation with a humble heart and listening spirit would tell me, “You spoke directly to me today. God convicted me in what you said. I really needed to hear that sermon.” Some people have teachable spirits and some people don’t. The people who do are taking sermons personally.
Whenever we listen to sermons, we should try to take them personally. We should always ask the Holy Spirit “How am I doing with this? Is this a hidden sin or fault in my life? How can I live more in keeping with God’s will?”
Holy Spirit, come into my heart. Soften it and make me teachable. Show me wherever there is sin or fault in my life. Help me to hear your voice in whatever form it may take. Amen.