Jeremiah, like a spiritual oncologist with cancer report in hand, is in the middle of rehearsing for Jerusalem just how sick and broken she has become.
It is not a pretty picture:
Oh, oh, oh How empty the city, once teeming with people.
A widow, this city, once in the front rank of nations,
once queen of the ball, she’s now a drudge in the kitchen.
She cries herself to sleep each night, tears soaking her pillow.
(Lamantations 1:1-2a TMSG)
And…oh my….Jeremiah blames it on the preachers!
Your prophets have said so many foolish things, false to the core. They did not save you from exile by pointing out your sins. Instead, they painted false pictures, filling you with false hope.
(Lamentations 2:14 NLT)
I wonder just how many foolish things I have offered from the pulpit. Are some people still wandering around in circles of exile because the sacred desk I stood behind was silent on their sins? Has false hope been the empty meal provided by this preacher's mouth? The only ray of light in that black hole is that my places of service have been smaller membership churches.
Before you get the idea you’ve wandered-into Russell’s pity-party, that’s not this deal. Neither is it my intention to "clear my good name" here (who said mine was good in the first place?).
Rather, I'm conducting an internal audit of the WAY I've preached, and WHAT I've preached. This is hard; I've always hated listening to the audio of one of my sermons; these days I cringe even more watching a replay of the video.
We have all had those I can’t believe I said that moments. For preachers, the whole idea is to keep those down to a minimum; people’s lives are too precious to waste on foolishness.
What the Audit found…..
A review of thirty years of this preacher’s sermons (and aborted sermon attempts) reveals that most of my sermon themes have been about the surrendered life. The texts I’ve chosen to preach are not political, financial prosperity, parenting or self-help staples. Those issues are all part of it, and each sermon has always included an evangelistic appeal. But, largely I preach to the Christian to become a stronger follower of Jesus.
All that said, I am moved to remind us that preaching is never supposed to be about entertainment. It’s all about self-examination in light of Biblical truth, for the purpose of growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
- It’s about correcting what ails us.
- It’s about pruning so the branch will bear more fruit, and better fruit.
- It’s about encouraging so we can better encourage others.
If you went to church Sunday, what did you expect to hear? Were your ears itching for a good show? Or was your heart’s appetite craving the Bread of Life?
I’ve often seen the bumper sticker that says, if you can read this, thank a teacher! There’s one about food, if you are well-fed, thank a farmer!
We could go on with many different contributors to society. But you’ve only got another moment before you have to be out the door today, so…here’s another one: