Preaching (March – April 2006) features a cartoon in which two preachers are standing by the signs in front of their respective side-by-side church buildings. The signs advertise the titles of the sermons upcoming in each church. The preacher on the left is preaching momentarily on the topic “Taking Sin Seriously.” The preacher on the right is preaching a sermon titled, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.” One preacher looks excitedly happy because he has a standing room only crowd waiting to enter. The other preacher looks distraught because no one is entering through his building’s doors. Guess which sermon people line up to hear in the cartoon. You probably guessed right. They are not lined up outside the door where “Taking Sin Seriously” is the topic for the morning.
I understand jokes like that. Jokes about the people in pews can be humorous without truly revealing the hearts of people in the pews. Likewise, jokes about preachers can be humorous without truly revealing the hearts of people in the pulpit. But when I saw that cartoon it caused me to consider my own preaching. Right now, I am preaching through the Sermon on the Mount. I’m preaching a series of sermons on a sermon.
The people lined up to hear Jesus were called to take sin seriously. Jesus warned his hearers about anger, lust, divorce, hatred, and dishonesty, in the end telling them if they failed to do what he said they would experience a “great fall.” Take sin seriously. Yet in the same sermon, he said, “Don’t be anxious about tomorrow.” Don’t sweat the small stuff.
We all need to hear a balance of sermons about the kindness and sternness of God. Preachers can probably do a better job of balancing them. I’ll try. Will you? That’s Life at Work!