I have 822 sermons in my files. Very few of them took me less than two hours to prepare, some of them a good deal more. What is more, since I was born and was first taken to church to be baptised, as a blob of palpitating protoplasm, I must have listened to several thousand sermons by others.
A little elementary arithmetic reveals that I have sermonised or been sermonised for 9510 hours. That makes 397.9 days of my life.
Over a year of my life has been sermonised away then. If you leave out the time I have spent each night sleeping it makes it all but two years of my life that have been sermonised away! I deserve some sort of a medal. I am sermon drunk, drugged, drowsed, sedated.
The longest sermon I have ever
suffered was a forty five minute horror by a charismatic bishop in Grahamstown Cathedral in
I have heard many bad sermons. The worst involved the dramatic popping of a balloon. Unfortunately the thing was so flaccid it wouldn't pop, it just squelched and squeezed. So no bang, not even a whimper, just embarrassed giggles.
As a deacon and assistant priest in
a large cathedral in
The best sermons I ever listened to
Although I like forceful sermons I
am not one for drama or histrionics in the pulpit. Once though I went wild and
red in the face in the pulpit myself.
In Harare Cathedral in
Preachers should heed only criticism of their sermons. Praise is nearly always mere flattery. I have heard too many appalling sermons gushed and enthused over by uncritical admirers of colleagues ever to take praise too seriously.
Parishioners are usually far too gentle and tactful ever to tell you the critical truth. I have received salutary criticism myself only a few times. Once, as a deacon, I preached on the Trinity in Harare Cathedral. As I glided, self‑satisfied, past the Dean's stall on the way back to my place, he whispered loudly for all the choir to hear, "Heresy!" A diminutive, thoughtful Scotsman in my first parish once said to me as he left the church, "I liked the first half of your sermon, Rector, but the last half, man it was rubbish, bloody rubbish!"
In that first parish there was an African woman who I like to think was mad. When she came to church it was always late. As I began my sermon she would take out yesterday's paper, purloined from someone's bin, noisily unfold it and begin to read. Perhaps the sanest person in the church.
I always look forward to the sermon
when visiting a church. I love to hear
the Gospel made sweet and articulate sense of.
I am nearly always disappointed.
Far too often all you get is platitudinous and ill‑prepared
waffle. At other times I feel like
quoting the Frenchman who said, "Improve your style monsieur! You have disgusted me with the joys of
heaven." A visitor to a
But perhaps the wisest of all comments on being sermonised came from my father, who once said to me when he heard me complain of a sermon, "If you listen in the right spirit there will always be something to move your heart towards God.