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The One Great Sermon That Got Away

By Rev. James L. Snyder

Most people don't realize ministers are obligated to prepare and preach one great sermon in their career. In looking over my record of sermons, I noticed many "good" sermons, but an obvious lack in the list of a single "great" sermon.

Perusing my list brought back some marvelous memories. I smiled as I remembered each sermon and where I preached it. Of course, I'm at that stage of life where the old memory juices don't flow as deep as they once did.

Occasionally, I ran across the odd sermon that didn't really look familiar. I must have preached them because they were on my list, but I had no recollection of them.

Every minister has three kinds of sermons in his repertoire.

(1) Sermons that hold wonderful memories as he reflects back on them. The preacher's main occupation, of course, is preaching. And nothing delights him more than pursuing his occupation with all his might.

When a sermon comes together, it is a magnificent thing. I grant you this doesn't happen often, but when it does it's wonderful.

The bad thing about a really wonderful sermon is you can only preach it one time. To me, this is not fair.

A singer, for example, can sing the same song over and over and over. If it's a really good song, people in the audience will even request it.

My idea of heaven is having people request that I repeat one of my good sermons. To date, no one has made such a request of me, which may mean none are worth repeating.

(2) Sermons he wishes he could forget and hopes everyone else has. Looking over my list of sermons, I was surprised by how many fit this category.

Here's a good example, "How to Give in To Your Wife Without Giving Up Your Manhood?"

I was 28 at the time and had been married for about seven years. I thought I had a good grasp on this thing called marriage. Also, I thought I had some wisdom to share along this line. If memory serves me correctly, what I thought I knew I didn't.

I do remember the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage setting me straight on that sermon. My manhood was severely challenged and I have never repeated that sermon since.

Here's another sermon I wish I could forget. "When Your Get-up and Go Got up and Went, Where Do You Go?" I have no idea what I was trying to get at. I sure hope I never run into any former parishioner who remembers this one.

(3) Finally, sermons long forgotten even by the preacher himself. I noted that in 35 years of preaching I had quite a few belonging in this category. As I tried to remember some of these long forgotten sermons one thought struck me.

Where do forgotten sermons go? Is there some holding tank somewhere, filled with forgotten sermons? Is there a sermontoruim for these homiletically-challenged productions?

Still missing from my list was anything resembling a "great" sermon. Then it hit me.

One sermon got away. How sermons get away from a person varies with each minister. With computers these days, it is not difficult to lose a great sermon. But the sermon I'm thinking of was B.C. (before computers).

It's hard to believe there was a time before computers. Everything had to be written by hand and stored in some filing system. My filing system, before my computer, left much to be desired.

My system did not so much leave much to be desired as to be nonexistent.

I remember this sermon now. It was a special Sunday in our church and the worship program was filled with guests, including a group of singers who were to perform at our service.

I worked for weeks on this sermon and had it worked out pretty good. Everything that belonged to a great sermon was in this sermon. I reworked it until it was as close to perfect as I could possibly make it.

The Sunday arrived and I anxiously anticipated delivering my great sermon. Everything seemed to go right that Sunday. Even the weather cooperated by delivering a splendid day.

Looking back, however, I overlooked one thing. Concentrating so much time in preparing my sermon, I forgot others were participating in the service.

My sermon, as is usually the case, was the last thing on the program. The service started on time and everything progressed very nicely.

Then the musical group got up to sing. They were simply marvelous and the harmony was heavenly. In fact, they were so good they received a standing ovation.

As the custom is, they responded appropriately by singing another song. Again, they received a standing ovation, which in turn resulted in another song... and another song... and another song.

By this time, I was nervous. Time to preach my great sermon started 20 minutes ago and there was no indication the musical group sensed the time.

When the last strain of music faded and I stepped to the pulpit, it was time to give the benediction. With as much graciousness as I could command, I pronounced the benediction and dismissed the people.

To this day, nobody knows (except you) that my great sermon got away.

"And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Romans 10:15 KJV.)

About The Author

James L. Snyder is an award winning author and popular columnist living in Ocala, FL with his wife, Martha.


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