During this year’s Easter sermon our pastor mentioned John 11 and my mind wandered (ever so briefly!) back to my homiletics class in Bible school.
FYI, “homiletics” is theospeech for how to preach. I was really disappointed with that whole series of courses (I-III plus the optional advanced). Going into it I thought they were going to teach us how to preach. Actually, they mostly just taught us how to create sermon outlines: Introduction, three points, illustrations, closing. A more dreary contrast to the excitement that is good preaching is hard to imagine.
The professor had an obligatory excursus into exegesis. A very painful experience that helps explain the many exegetical oddities one hears from pulpits these days. After we all learned to exegete, outline, illustrate and conclude we got to preach. That was about half of the class: giving, listening to and evaluating the sermons of our fellow students. Many chose to “pray” during these times.
So when I got to advanced homiletics I decided I was going to mix things up a bit. Break the mold and all that. I was assigned a funeral sermon and I chose the story of the raising of Lazarus in John 11 (thus my mental segue). As I began I gazed out on the glazed eyes of my fellow sufferers in the classroom and for a brief moment wondered why we bothered with it all if it was really so uninteresting. Then I told the story of how Lazarus had died and Jesus had delayed coming to him, and little by little I got quieter and quieter. I did everything possible to be as boring as audience expectations prognosticated. Then I quietly painted the picture of Jesus standing before the grave of Lazarus and when it came to the actual call to Lazarus I yelled out suddenly and dramatically,
“(Jesus said) LAZARUS, COME FORTH!”
The reaction was truly hilarious. One of the student had fallen asleep and jerked awake suddenly with a surprised look on his face, wondering what was going on. Then I continued the rest of the message with the passion and excitement that the story deserved.
Predictably, my professor was unimpressed. He pointed out that this was, after all, funeral sermon and sudden yelling at a funeral service is not really recommended (I suddenly envisioned renewed waves of weeping from the pews in response to my dramatics at my hypothetical funeral ).
But come on, I thought, Let’s live a little! I know it’s not appropriate to get excited about preaching at a cemetery – I mean… seminary – but I’m going to do it anyway. Flunk me if you must!
BTW, the sermon from which I was only very briefly distracted (mere nanoseconds, I swear!) was very good and you can hear it here:
RCC 2011 Easter Sermon, by Kurt Ingram.
My friend JB Krohn up in Vancouver also preached on John 11 and did some yelling: check it out.