Jump Start # 2674
Mark 4:34 “and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.”
I ran across an old sermon that someone gave to me recently. The preacher is no longer on this side of life. On the back side of the sermon was handwritten all the places that it had been preached. The first time he preached it was in 1942. But he continued to preach that sermon into the 1990’s. He must have preached that one sermon thirty times. It had been preached at least five times at the same place through the years. That made me think about the way I preach. I have probably less than five sermons that I have preached through the decades. I believe that I’ve only repeated a sermon at the same place only a couple of times. I may use the same text over and over, but they are generally different sermons and different approaches to a topic.
Now, all of this got me to thinking about Jesus. Did He ever repeat the same lesson? Did He ever tell the same parable more than once? Did He ever preach the sermon on the mount again? The preaching of Jesus covered a very short time, only three years. There was so much to reveal that He didn’t have much time to repeat things. The Holy Spirit would remind the apostles what the Lord had said. This was essential for accuracy.
It is interesting how we look at things. We listen to the same songs over and over. We sing the same hymns over and over. We watch the same movies over and over. And, we do all of this over and over and over. Your favorite movie, how many times have you seen it? Mine is Shane, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it. I can quote the movie. I know exactly what is going to happen, before it happens. Yet, I love that movie. There are others, especially around the holiday season, that I watch every year. I never grow tired of watching them. But, it’s different when the preacher preaches a sermon that we’ve heard before. Someone has to say, with a smirk, “I’ve heard you preach that before.” And, layered behind that is often the thought, “You are a lazy preacher and didn’t do much this week. All you did was pull out one of your old sermons and give us a rerun.”
I actually witnessed that once. I went to hear a preacher. His sermon was great. Someone said to him, “I heard you preach that before.” The preacher said in reply, “Certainly. Maybe you’ll get it this time.” I think he was steamed and frustrated with what was said to him. One of my heroes is Dee Bowman. He has a sermon on Heaven that I’ve heard three or four times. If I could only hear one sermon over and over for the rest of my life, it would be that sermon.
So, what about Sunday reruns? Let’s give this some thought.
First, with an honest heart, every time you hear a lesson you pick up on new insights. Sometimes we need to hear a sermon more than once. I know some folks that will hear the sermon live on Sunday, but they’ll listen to it again during the week. They are picking out gems and jewels that they missed the first time.
Second, repeating things helps us to remember truths better. How many times do we do this with our children and teaching them the A-B-C’s. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This is one of the ways people learn to memorize Scriptures. They have read them, heard them, and, used them so many times that it is now burned within their hearts and memory.
Third, some topics can only be said so many ways. There are principles that we must hold on to. The prodigal son. Jesus calming the storm. The resurrection of Lazarus. Great truths in those passages. We must hold on to those and they need to be preached again and again and again. Now, the preacher will look for fresh ways of showing these truths to others, but some things that worked before are worth just repeating. I often take things from sermons to classes to Jump Starts to podcasts and the other way. I may read something I wrote in a sermon. I usually don’t cite the source, that seems a bit vain, but if was well written, use it and use it again.
Forth, understand there are times when the preacher has been swamped with other things and sometimes the well of ideas just runs dry. Most of us are doing this week after week, including classes, writings and other things. And, there are days that this preacher just stares at a blank screen and wishes words would magically appear. And, add private classes, funerals and some weeks, the preacher is running out of time. Sunday comes, whether he is ready or not. Pulling an old sermon that has a lot of fire and truth still in it, and is fitting for the moment, is nothing to be ashamed of. Sometime ago I went to hear Paul McCartney in a concert. Loved it. He had a new album out. I didn’t want to hear those songs. I wanted to hear the old songs. Everyone in the audience was singing along with him. We knew the songs. But what great memories it was to hear and see him singing the classics we love so well.
Finally, rather than giving the preacher a critical comment such as, “I’ve already heard that one before,” why not encourage him by saying, “That sermon is one that really helps me.” He knows more than you do that it is a rerun. He knows more than you do why he selected to preach that again. And, most times, it’s not because he’s lazy, but instead, he’s so busy in other areas of the kingdom. Now, if this becomes a weekly habit, always preaching the same sermons over and over, then the shepherds need to see what’s going on. Maybe he’s burned out and needs a break. Maybe there are things that no one knows about.
Rather than being a finger pointer, why not be one who pats on the back. Be an encourager rather than a critic. In many places, there are folks sitting in that audience who never heard that sermon before. Don’t forget about that. It’s not all about you. There are some simple truths that every new person and every generation needs to hear. And, when we think about Peter’s writings, he often used the expression, “reminder.” We all need to be reminded. We tend to forget.
There is a story about a wife who always wanted her husband to take her out to eat. Every evening it was out to a restaurant. One day she declared, “I want you to take me some place I’ve never been before.” He took her to the kitchen. Maybe we ought to take a look at ourselves and take a step back and give some thought to how people learn and what’s the best method. Repeating is ok when we understand the purpose and reason behind it.
Sunday is coming and I must stop this so I can get to working on a sermon, a new one.