In Praise of the Sermon – John J. Timmerman

Markings on long journey-TimmermanYesterday while reading a few more essays by John J. Timmerman published in Markings on a Long Journey (Baker Book House, 1982), I came across this great quote from a speech Timmerman gave at the annual Reformed Fellowship meeting in October of 1972 – a speech titled “In Praise of the Sermon”:

I believe, furthermore, that the minister fills a God-ordained office in preaching, that he literally represents, in spite of human frailty, the voice of God to His people. There are excellent commentaries on the Bible, and many helpful spiritual books, but only in preaching does a living, human voice confront us directly as God’s messenger to us. The minister cannot share this office. In a dialog service this is lost; instead of an authoritative voice we have a democratic colloqium. The minister has been lengthily and expensively trained to perform this office, and it is not the business of unprepared people to offer instant wisdom on knotty Scriptural passages. The minister has the special training, the gifts, experience, and time to explain Scripture in a way that most of us are too preoccupied with our daily tasks to do.

The sermon seems to me irreplacable in worship. No other way of conducting services embodies the values I have emphasized. I do not think any intelligent critic would deny the esthetic dimension of the sermon. If one is dubious, let him read sermons by Donne, Newman, and R.B. Kuiper; then, if he is still dubious, one can safely dismiss him as a blockhead. The opinion of the sermon as invariably dull and soporific strikes me as adolescent in origin and weightless in argument. Not all sermons are brilliant, but I have never heard a carefully prepared sermon by an intelligent man that did not have something worth listening to. In no other service does the minister speak with the authority inherent in the sermon.

…Good sermons will continue to nurture our faith, stimulate our love for God and neighbor, inspire compassion, work repentance and faith, give light for darkness and hope for the morrow (71-72).

After being blessed with two good sermons again yesterday, I couldn’t agree more. Are we thankful enough for the good preaching we have? Do we pray for our pastors enough? We can start today.

Published in: on December 29, 2014 at 6:52 AM  Leave a Comment