This is probably the most backwards way of coming up with a sermon series ever. I doubt I should even be confessing this.
Last year, as I started planning my preaching for 2015 I realized I needed some good life lessons for my audience. 2014’s series on Romans and “Did God Really Say” went well, but I wanted to give them something that could really help shape Christian character.
I remember scribbling in my notebook the words, “Sins that Point to Holiness.” I wanted to look back through the Old Testament and find stories of failures and punishment. Sins that were an affront to God and his character. I began researching which sins to include. Do I do Cain and Abel? How about David and Bathsheba? I made a list and started weeding a few out. I felt like seven would be a good number to hold to.
Then I remembered 1 Corinthians 10:6, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.“ I’m pretty sure a normal preacher would have started there.
Paul had done most of the homework for me in listing sins that had offended God. In verses 7-10 he listed the golden calf, the idolatry of Baalpeor, the bronze serpent, and the grumbling. I took his list and added three of my own: Cain and Abel, Nadab and Abihu and Achan.
Honestly, I’m a little intimidated by some of these stories. The sin of Achan from Joshua 7 especially. However, I really feel the need to challenge myself with this preaching. In some ways it feels like homiletical gymnastics.
But I also feel the need to challenge my people. If the first sermon is any indicator I think they’re ready for this.
I wasn’t terribly happy with this sermon, right up until Sunday morning. It had been a crazy week. In addition to the New Year’s holiday, I had two funerals and a few other interruptions to my schedule. Thankfully I had the basic outline down weeks in advance, but still needed to flesh it out. I made a few changes late in the game and finished the sermon up on Friday morning.
Then made some edits Saturday.
I really felt like I needed to cut more. I wanted to cut the part about Eve not knowing what a “bad boy” looked like (by the way, when I mentioned that I put a picture of me as a child up on the screen. That went over well.). I didn’t feel like the point really took the sermon to its conclusion, but in the end I think it helped make Cain more sympathetic and human.
And then during the sermon I did something I seldom do. I went off notes–twice. Those were inspired by a few conversations I had that morning with some members. I felt they needed to be said. Usually if I go off notes I cringe later when I think about it. “Why did I do that? That definitely didn’t work!” This time I think it was the right call.
But still, at thirty-nine minutes I was asking a lot of my hearers. Of course, I’m also asking a lot of you to actually read all this, aren’t I?
The reception could not have been better. There were many great conversations at the back door and some good comments in the days following. I think this was exactly the message we needed for this week.
Next week I tackle Exodus 32 and the golden calf. I’m looking forward to exploring Aaron a bit more in that story.