I’ve been reading “The Sermon Doctor” by Harry Farra with my associate minister. It’s a great little book and we’re using it to sharpen our skills together. In the book, Farra’s Sermon Doctor quotes Martin Luther in saying, “the preacher was part of the sermon . . . you couldn’t separate the sermon from the sermonizer. We become part of the message.” I felt the weight of that this past Sunday.
Fifteen years ago my brother committed suicide. In preaching this series on death I knew that I would have to address suicide and to do so I would have to dig deep into my personal experiences. I doubt I’ve ever preached as personal a sermon as this one.
As with other sermons in this series, this one begins with a practical talk. This one is from Kay Wheeler, a hospice nurse who explains what hospice is and does.
In his latest book on preaching, Leonard Sweet says, “I can think of no better definition of preaching than ‘giving blood.’ . . . If blood is the liquid bearer of incarnational life, preachers are homiletic hemophiliacs, hereditary bleeders of the Word.” A day later, and I still feel the drain of presenting this message in an intensely personal way. I feel exposed and empty. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever preach a sermon that personal again.
Actually, I’m sure I will. I just know I won’t like it.
The reaction to the message has been very positive. I’ve had very encouraging comments. In fact, the reaction to the whole series has been very positive. I’m not sure I can recommend a series on death—or that if you’re going to do one this is the way to do it, but it definitely was worth doing. We’ve had some very honest conversations over the course of this month. I think these sermons will make a lasting impact.