In my sermon consulting work, sometimes individuals indicate difficulty finding something to “celebrate.” As you know, celebration is the time in the sermon where we intellectually experience the truth of the message. However, sometimes individuals look long and hard for something to celebrate and can’t find it either in the text or in their sermons.
Is There Good News?
First, look for the good news. If you have no good news then I am sure you will not have any celebratory components. Certainly there are times when celebration is not warranted, but in most cases, our sermons should have good news. So what do you celebrate? The truth of the good news in your text. I would definitely encourage you to check out Frank Thomas’ book They Like To Never Quit Praisin God for a method that centers around finding that Good News in the text.
Ultimately, if you have difficulty finding a celebration, then I would encourage you to attempt to find the Good News first. Then, more than likely, the celebration will jump out at you.
Where Is God’s Activity?
Second, look for God’s activity rather than ours. A sermon full of prescriptions will make it difficult to find something to celebrate. Certainly there are times when a “celebrative challenge” might be helpful, but sometimes we find it difficult to find the close in our sermon because we overemphasize our responsibility or activity over God’s activity for humanity.
Some of these sermons end up having the pastor either castigate the people for not doing “this or that” or they end up being prescriptions for the people to do “this or that.” This is not a conservative versus liberal thing. Liberals have their “this or that” moments just as conservatives. So sometimes we castigate the people for not being loving or making the newcomer more welcome. Sometimes we castigate the people for not following the commands of God. Sometimes we castigate the people for looking at the wrong television programs or wearing their “pants too low or skirts too high.” Sometimes we castigate the people for sexual promiscuity and other areas of sexuality.
Certainly there is a place for correction, but if that is all your sermon all the time, then it will be difficult to find the celebration. I would encourage you to think about and preach about what God does for humanity in addition to the ethical demands of living in line with God. Then you will find it easier to get that close.
Who Empowers The People
Finally, if you must emphasize our activity, emphasize God’s making our activity possible. Ok, there are times when we need to do a challenge. There are times when you must emphasize human activity. I would encourage you to spend a little time discussing how God makes that activity possible. God empowers our living. God makes godly living possible. God enlightens our mind to what we should do. So even though the brunt of your sermon may be about human activity, that does not mean that you don’t make room for God.
In short, if God is not in your sermon, then it is not a sermon, it is a “suggestion.” Whether you have a celebrative close or not, I would encourage you to make sure that what you say that your “Good News” should be plain in the sermon. In addition, who God is and what God does for and in humanity should be just as prominent as your prescriptions for Christian living.