Last Saturday, I concluded a final message at a retreat in central California, drove to Los Angeles, returned the rental car, and caught a flight for Nashville via Denver. The next morning’s sermon was on the Great Commission from Matthew 28, and I was nervous about getting it into my head. I had my sermon manuscript with me, and I wanted to study through it on the plane since I wasn’t getting home until nearly midnight.
Internalizing a sermon is like cramming for a mid-term exam. I have to study the manuscript, make notes, learn the notes, absorb the details of illustrations, think through the introduction and conclusion, and become very familiar with the Scriptural text and message outline. I don’t memorize my sermons, but I do like to preach with as few notes as possible. Furthermore, it can’t just be in my head; it must be in my heart. So I have to meditate through the implications of the sermon and make sure my soul is full enough for the sermon to be “overflow.”
So I put in my ear-buds, boarded the plane, and took my seat on the aisle. An older couple was sitting beside me. Despite the plugs and wires attached to my ears, the old fellow was talkative. He saw I had a cooking magazine with me, and he told me that he was a good cook and they were on their way back from a cruise and he lived outside Denver and his daughter was picking them up and their little dog had been in the kennel, and so on and on. He wanted to see my magazine and did it have a subscription card in it, and how do you turn off the television screen on the seatback and would I like to have a Bloody Mary with them? Affirmative on the card, negative on the drink, and I hope your dog is fine.
Meanwhile I was trying to focus on my sermon; and after while we settled into our seats in silence and solitude.
It was the next morning that I was stuck with a sudden conviction: I had missed a chance to share the Gospel because I was too busy preparing a sermon on the Great Commission!
Isn’t that something?
I’m sorry to report this, but perhaps it’s a good lesson for us all.
PS – If, having read this sad story, you still want to see my sermon on the Great Commission, click here.