A sermon may be thought of as a screenplay. A theme is presented which we might describe as a setup. Along the way complications begin to arise. We reach a certain climax before we begin to see a resolution in sight. Often times it is a commandment of God that confronts us. We either take this confrontation head-on or we look for ways to soften it or even ignore it. A sermon without any confrontation is not a sermon at all. It is just soothing words that our “itching ears” want to hear.
We need to allow the confrontation to bring us to a climax in our understanding which only the Gospel can resolve. Let us take a look at the following scripture as an examine:
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”
And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28)
The setup or theme is this case is the commandment to love God and our neighbor. The catalyst which gives the lawyer pause is Jesus’ injunction: “Do this and you will live.” The lawyer realizes that he had not been able to actually keep this commandment. If we are honest with ourselves we would have to realize that we have failed at this commandment also. The lawyer thinks for a moment and then wonders if there might be a loophole in the law which he might explore:
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)
Jesus then tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. Samaritans were hated by the Jews but in the parable Jesus makes the Samaritan the hero. This Samaritan is the neighbor that the lawyer must consider as his neighbor. This brings the requirement of the commandment to a climax. We cannot overlook what is being asked of us. Then what must we do if we find ourselves unable to keep the law?
The confrontation and resolution of our story or sermon is the Gospel message that we preach. Too often we do not present this message because we have not adequately prepared our congregation with the dilemmas we face in life. The Gospel speaks to these dilemmas.
How are we to become the Good Samaritan? We cannot do it on our own. The lawyer was seeking to justify himself. We cannot do that. And why should we? It is Jesus who justifies us. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. If we have nothing to prove then we are free to do what we can without fear of condemnation. This fear motivated the lawyer, but it must not motivate us.
Once free, we are able to follow Jesus and his example, knowing that what we are not able to do he will more than make up the difference. The Good Samaritan did not worry about running out of resources. He did what he could, trusting God to do the rest.
Do we see how the parts of telling a story applies to our sermon telling the Gospel?