Last night we watched an old episode of the Andy Griffith show that was entitled “A Sermon for Today.”
Andy and Opie are ready for church and trying to get Aunt Bee off the phone gossiping with her friend Clara.
When we arrive at the “All Souls Church,” the congregation is singing “Holy Spirit, Truth Divine.” All the while the ladies are looking across the auditorium miming appreciation for each other’s hats. Barney fumbles to keep his place in the hymn, and is saved from embarrassment when Andy stops him from applauding the guest speaker.”
Dr. Bream begins by asking, “What’s the meaning of it all?” Then proceeds to extol the virtues of slowing down, not rushing through life and relaxing. Gomer takes him a little too seriously and dozes off during the sermon and begins snoring. Barney is fighting sleep. Andy seems distracted. And Opie catches a fly buzzing around his head.
After the service, Barney thanks Dr. Breen for his wonderful message, erroneously saying “That’s one subject you just can’t talk enough about: sin.”
Following a hearty Sunday dinner, they begin talking about an illustration in Bream’s sermon of feeling relaxed after a band concert and begin reliving the “good ole days” when they had a town band. Suddenly, they get the idea of putting together a concert that evening. The rest of the episode shows them feverishly working and wearing themselves out trying to repair the band uniforms, rebuild the bandstand and practice a song. All with disastrous results.
By the end of the show, after running themselves ragged, they realize reviving the band is impossible and all sit exhausted on the front porch. As the show concluded Dr. Bream stopped by and seeing them slumped over in the chairs, he thinks they’ve taken his advice. He’s asked to stay and visit, but ironically declines because he’s is in a hurry to leave for New York City.
As I chuckled through this episode, I wondered if that old show doesn’t still mimic modern attitudes toward preaching? At least to some degree.
There are some serious questions we each ought to consider every time we go to worship.
Do we attend to worship God? Or attend of out tradition? Or to show off our clothes?
Do we truly focus on the songs, prayers, communion, and preaching? Or do we allow our minds to easily become distracted?
Do we take preaching seriously? Really listen to what was said? Or is it a time to take a nap? Or think about other matters?
Through the years, I have had some folks compliment my sermon like Barney did with a comment that had nothing to do with what I’d preached.
Do we leave to really apply the message to our lives? Allow ourselves to get sidetracked on lesser matters? Or miss the point altogether?
Jesus commanded, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:24).
Worship involves preaching. It is God ordained. Jesus preached. Peter preached. And Paul preached.
God chose “to save those who believe through the message preached.” The Good News about Jesus, however, was foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews (I Cor. 1:21-25). Yet, Paul affirmed in it was a demonstration of the “power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Of course, this requires preachers to faithfully and fully preach God’s Word. Not man’s wisdom. Not tradition. Not opinion. Not denominational creeds. Not pop psychology. We must, like Paul, “remind (people) of the gospel,” “preach Christ crucified,” and “declare the whole counsel of God” (1 Cor 15:1; 1:23; Acts 20:27).
As listeners of God’s Word, we all, preachers and people in the pew, must take the Word seriously. We are called upon and commanded to believe it. Receive it. And live it. It should truly change and transform our lives (1 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 12:1-2)
To the preacher, we offer the advice of G. Campbell Morgan. “Every sermon should contain three elements: truth, clarity, and passion.”
To the listener, the warning of John Piper is apropos. “Preaching is one thing—and it is crucial. But hearing is another thing—and it is just as crucial.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman