I Feel Like I Gave Blood Sunday Morning

I’ve Teach Us to Number Our Daysbeen 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.

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Time and Eternity

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” It’s poetic, it’s even musical, and it’s one of the biggest frustrations in our lives. We’re caught between the beauty and destructiveness of the seasons of life and a longing in our hearts for something that truly lasts.

That’s the tension we live and die in. That’s life and eternity and our search for meaning in both.

I find preaching Ecclesiastes to be problematic. Solomon’s wisdom is undeniable, but is his wisdom enough to consider his words accurate and true? God’s grace notwithstanding, Solomon is a horrible role model and I don’t think his worldview is one we should trust as the answer to the ultimate questions of life.

Solomon’s view of life is a closed system where there is “nothing new under the sun.” His conclusion in chapter 12 is all about duty with no consideration of a relationship with a gracious God. So can I trust his words on the frustration we find in the tension between time and eternity in chapter 3?

I think I can. At the very least I think we all feel the tension of the seasons and the struggle to grasp eternity. I think Solomon’s expression of the frustrations of life reflect our own quite well. I think the conclusions he draws here match our calling to live as Christ in this world.

This sermon went well. I think preaching it on a lovely fall day definitely helped!


Why Would You Preach a Sermon Series on Death?

I am actually surprised at how few times I’ve been asked why I wanted to preach on death. I’ll admit, it’s not really the kind of topic that packs the house, but it has generated a lot of interest and some great responses.

I forewarned the congregation about a month in advance that the sermons in October would focus on death. “Not heaven, not hell, not eternity, but the very real and inevitable fact of our own deaths.” I wanted to take a practical and honest look at what we need to know before we die.

I do a lot of funerals. It’s not uncommon for me to encounter families who are totally unprepared for death. They haven’t talked about arrangements, wishes, what they don’t want, or anything else. When I meet with them they’re usually in too much shock to give me many details. I determined that I was going to do my best to make sure my people were better prepared. Continue reading