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EFAC Australia

Every now and then I like to devise and preach a topical sermon series. Some of these have been some of the most memorable series to me, and have sometimes gotten more engagement and discussion among the congregation than is usual. I’m no master of the genre, but here are three series I have preached.

  creed                                              

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I thought preaching through the creed would be good catechesis—a chance to present a mini-systematic theology, an overview of the gospel story. If people knew the bones of the creed, and through this sermon series could put some flesh on those bones, they might be clearer on the gospel themselves, and better equipped to explain it to others. The series went: Founding Father (Psalm 104, James 1:16-18), Incarnate Son (Luke 1:26-38, Col 1:15-20), Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:1-6, Rom 3:21-26), Exalted King (Acts 17:22-31, Phil 2:5-11) and finally, Life-giving Spirit (Acts 2:1-21, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28). I did not expound any one of the readings, but preached sermons expounding the fatherhood of God, the incarnation of Christ, the atoning exchange of the suffering servant, his now and future reign, and the ways God is transforming the world to perfect Christ’s work. Years later a woman told me that when she had just come to church she arrived in time to hear these sermons and they were perfect for her as someone who needed a walk through the basics and the big picture. That was nice to hear.

 seven

THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS

Every so often someone writes a novel or makes a TV series based on the seven deadly sins: anger, pride, lust, greed, sloth, gluttony and envy. If they can give appeal to a TV series, why not to a sermon series? I developed these talks using a consistent set of questions to give structure, namely: 1) What is sin X, and why is it your enemy? 2) How is Jesus the remedy for sin X? 3) How is living by the Spirit the therapy for sin X? And 4) What do you need to do? This repetition (hopefully) hammers home the message that sin is your enemy, Jesus is the remedy and living by his Spirit is our therapy in this life, and that there are particular steps to take in escaping these sins. The individual sins bring out different sides of Jesus’ holiness of life and atoning work as they are opposed to all sin. His life and death are all humility, against all pride. His life and death for us are his faithful industry in God’s service, against all sloth. His life and death are his satisfaction in doing God’s will, against all gluttony and insatiability. After the gluttony sermon a group formed spontaneously to pursue the discussion. They read a book together and met several times. Food is a big deal, connected to a lot of personal issues, but it is not much talked about from the front of church (unless, for example, you preach through the seven deadly sins).

 paradox

PARADOXES OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

Reading Allan Chapple’s book True Devotion, I came across his section regarding the paradoxical nature of our relationship with God, which seemed to me a rare discussion of a true characteristic of our walk of faith. I hankered to explore this through a series of sermons on paradoxes of the Christian life, which came to birth last year. The six paradoxes were: Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:18-31, Is 53:1-5); Love your life and lose it, hate your life and keep it (Mark 8:22-38, Is 53:5-12); Christ is both absent and present (2 Cor 5:1-10, Psalm 13); We are at once sinners and saints (1 John 1:8- 2:2, Psalm 65:1-4); We are perfectly free and wholly enslaved (1 Cor 7:17-24, Exodus 19:1-8) and When we are weak, then we are strong (2 Cor 4:5-12, Psalm 22:1-11). I sought to use the same talk structure each time: first, Exploring the Paradox, where I showed each side of the paradox as it appeared in the Bible, and perhaps somewhere the two sides were both expressed together. Second came Resolving the Paradox, where I tried to show how both sides of the paradox were true and made sense, so that the paradox was not a contradiction, but an insight into the Christian life. Lastly came the section Living with the Paradox, where I tried to show how the truth of that paradox might shape our expectations and actions as we follow Christ. I may have bitten off more than I could chew at some points here, and I don’t have a story of these sermons making an impact on people. But I was very glad to have given it a go, and I might come back to this one day to see if I can distil the best of this series into a simpler and better set of talks.

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