Empty words

For the last several weeks I’ve committed to preaching ten-minute sermons.

It’s my way of helping our church help our community. When it comes to the spread of pathogens, we’ve learned that singing hymns while sitting next to people in worship is different than passing each other in the grocery store. So, my goal has been to construct a thirty-minute worship gathering for our church. I wouldn’t be mad with something shorter.

Now, I can cut hymn verses, which I normally would not do, and I can limit the number of Bible readings. I could also refashion how the church prays together. All that would help the thirty-minute goal. But the element of the church’s worship that tends to take the most time is the sermon.

You’ve probably listened to enough sermons to know that. So have I!

In case you’re wondering, preaching for ten minutes is hard. You have to say what you feel God is leading you to offer to the church. But there’s little room for extra. Ten minutes goes by real fast. The goal of any sermon is to offer people a different way of living, the Jesus way of living. I’ve preached five-minute sermons before. Never, though, for this many weeks in a row.

While I can’t wait to readapt our worship, I keep in mind why we are doing this now. And when I read today’s passage from Ecclesiastes, I began to reflect more on this practice. The teacher encourages us to “let our words be few.” He wasn’t just talking to preachers.

This is in light of his instruction to be mindful of our attitude as we approach God in worship. Too many words can crowd out true devotion. We can hide behind words, can’t we? It’s easy to say the right thing. We can train people to learn what to say. There is value in putting our emotions and thoughts into words, of course. But not if those words are empty.

God knows what empty-worded worship looks like. The people of God leaned on that form of religiosity many times. They spoke of their faith in God; they went through the motions. Their lives, however, did not match their worship.

My ten-minute sermons have offered me a chance to evaluate what I would normally share with a congregation. Have I been in tune with God’s Spirit as much as I desire to be? Do I focus my words on the gospel?

Those aren’t only good questions for a preacher to ask. They are helpful for you, too. For all of us. What promises are we making to God? As believers? As the church? Are they empty words or are we ready to make what we say to God a reality of how we live for God?

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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