#292 – What’s in a Sermon?


At the end of the Battlestar Galactica miniseries, which launched the re-imagined television series, Commander Adama gives a rousing speech. Adama tells the gathered masses that, even though the human race has been pushed to the point of extinction, they will survive. They will survive by finding the fabled 13th colony, Earth, and doing whatever it takes to get there.

The speech casts a vision. The speech offers encouragement. The speech inspires those listening to form a new perspective on life.

Adama’s speech does everything a sermon should.

Yet so many sermons don’t even come close.

For all the sermons I’ve heard and given in my life, I can remember Adama’s speech better than most of the sermons. I even preached this past weekend and I’m a little fuzzy on some of those details.

One sermon in itself, though, doesn’t make that much of a difference. Over the course of weeks and months and years of listening to sermons, though, God can use them to make a difference in our lives. The most grace isn’t imparted through one sermon but from one sermon building upon another over a long period of time.

That being said, from week-to-week, some sermons have a greater impact on individuals than others. Maybe you appreciate personal illustrations. Maybe you’re impacted by a vivid story. Maybe you’re like a friend at my church who feels like it was a good sermon when he leaves feeling guilty.

I’m most impacted by a sermon when it has an insight into a passage of scripture that I hadn’t seen before. Knowing how I’m wired as a thinker, it makes sense that the intellectual insights of a sermon would get me going.

However a sermon speaks to us we shouldn’t carry the expectation that every sermon we hear is going blow our minds and change our lives. God, though, will use the discipline of gathering with our faith communities every week and listening to sermons to change our minds and transform our lives.

Even if they’re not as rousing as Adama’s speech from Battlestar Galactica.

What impacts you most in a sermon?


6 comments on “#292 – What’s in a Sermon?”

  1. “Adama’s speech does everything a sermon should.” – except speak the truth. At that point in BSG, Adama no more believes in the existence of Earth than you or I believe in the tooth fairy. Yes, it’s a rousing and inspirational speech, but it’s also calculated and manipulative. Adama needs his people to have hope, so he conjures what is (so far as he knows) a false hope to fill the gap. The fact that it turns out to be true adds a wrinkle, I suppose – perhaps analagous to the Spirit speaking through “preachers” who don’t believe what they’re preaching – but I’d hardly hold Adama’s speech up as a model of what preaching should do or be. If preachers do not speak the truth as they have been given to believe it or as far as they can perceive it, I don’t think they’re being responsible to their callng.

    I do appreciate your lifting up the importance of preaching, though, and reminding us that attending to the preached Word is a life-long, vitally important disciplne. Blessings on you as you preach!

    1. Well…yeah, I suppose a sermon should be true. 🙂

      But, imagine if Adama’s speech had come from a place of conviction, belief and truth? How much more powerful could it have been? When sermons take the truth and communicate it passionately and vividly I think that cultivates an environment for the Spirit to work.

      1. Yes. No arguments with your overall point, Scott. The nitpicky geek in me just had to point out the bit about Adama (so far as he knew) deliberately lying!

        Were I to choose a sci-fi example for preachers to learn from, I think I’d gotta go with Captain Kirk’s “risk is our business” “homily” from the TOS episode “Return to Tomorrow.” I mean, people give Shatner a lot of grief, but that man actually can act. In that speech, Kirk casts a vision, acknowledges the objections pastorally yet passionately, and then ends with a rousing call for commitment.

        Hey, with your permission, could I write something for the Sci-Fi Christian along those lines, acknowledging and linking to this post for the inspiration? (“Over at The Christian Nerd, Scott Higa held up Adama’s speech as a model for preachers, and that got me thinking…”) Let me know if you object. Thanks!

  2. I like a pastor/teacher/whatever who admit’s his humanity; who admits to enjoying ordinary things like nerd-stuff or books, or fishing, or surfing(blowing a kiss at Bethany Hamilton!) or running(RIP Eric Liddel), or being an Oxbridge scholar(right back at you Lewis). I also like one who can crack jokes, and doesn’t take himself seriously.

    I also like someone who seriously addresses my doubts and fears; who can talk openly about the questions you’re “not supposed to ask”.

    1. I think it’s important for pastors to be open and honest and truly themselves. i know when I first started preaching regularly at our church, I was inclined to cover up my personality and not inject too much of myself into the sermon. When building a relationship with a congregation, though, it’s good to inject some personality into the sermon and build a rapport with the congregation.

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