When we think of sermon preparation we envision the man, or woman, of God on their knees praying, "Father, for this group of people, for this time, in this place, what do You want to say?" Your image may include a study filled with volumes and volumes of Bible translations, commentaries, dictionaries, a Strong's Concordance along with a few others that only a professional Bible expositor would ever own. A more modern approach may include electronic tools such as Logos Bible Software utilizing thousands of resources at your fingertips in just a few keystrokes. Regardless of the specific image that this provokes in your head, my best guess is that image is an image of one. One man, or one women, in hours of preparation to deliver God's Word. For most of us, we place all the responsibility of sermon preparation on the one preaching the sermon, teaching the Bible Study, or delivering the Sunday School lesson.
This past Sunday we were studying the Parable of The Soils in Luke 8. I challenged the listener to try to hear the parable as if it were for the very first time. We often skip ahead, or jump ahead of the teacher, when we know how a story ends. The second thing I believe this section of the scriptures challenged us all on is our whole idea of sermon preparation. When we read verse 18 "Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him." - Luke 8:18 NKJV
That appears to make sermon preparation a shared responsibility!
Take heed how you hear! The listener owns some responsibility in how they hear. When is the last time you prepared, or took heed, on how you would hear a message from God's Holy Word? When is the last time you prayed the night before, or the morning of, for God's anointing on the sermon, on the pastor, that the environment, and your mind, would be freed from distractions so you could take heed on your hearing? This was a challenge to me and I hope it is to you as well. The verse goes on to say, "for whoever has, to him more will be given...." I believe more means more. That applies to both desire and understanding. When I have opportunity to be on the other side of the pulpit, I come with pen and pad in hand in expectation of hearing from God; and would encourage you to do the same.
Something else that stood out this time around that I think is easy to miss as it's mentioned before Jesus explains the parable. In verse 6 "Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture." - Luke 8:6 NKJV We usually look at this and assume the only problem was shallow soil. The seed sprang up quick, but had no depth of soil, so it withered away. But, here in verse 6 it says because it lacked moisture. Throughout the scriptures there are references to the Holy Spirit being that living water. Look at John 7:37-39 NKJV "37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
When we read the Parable of The Soils we usually put ourselves in one of the four conditions Jesus describes. The truth is however, each description is us at different times if we fail to take heed in how we hear. Do your own sermon prep! Ask in prayer ahead of time for God's anointing on the teaching and the teacher. Ask the Holy Spirit to give understanding and application in your life, that out of your heart would flow living water!
Grace and Peace