14 March 2005

Preaching from the pulpit

Given that I have been in academia for more than two decades now, I am thoroughly accustomed to speaking in educational settings. On the other hand, I rarely preach from the pulpit in the course of a church's worship service. To be sure, I once led an Ash Wednesday service at South Bend Christian Reformed Church twenty years ago. I may have preached once or twice elsewhere since then, but that's it.

Last evening was one of those rare occasions. I preached at the evening service at First Christian Reformed Church downtown Hamilton. In the Reformed churches the second service is usually a teaching service based on the questions and answers of the Heidelberg Catechism or another confessional document. At First Church the congregation is currently being led through the Contemporary Testimony, a quasi-confessional document put together more than two decades ago by the CRC. The general title is Our World Belongs to God and it represents an effort to bring to bear the riches of the Reformed tradition on the whole of life.

When the congregation got to the paragraphs dealing with civil government -- something which, incidentally, all the Reformed confessions treat -- the pastor asked me to preach. I was quite happy to do so. I preached on Romans 13:1-7, with a number of references to Psalm 82, a metrical version of which was sung after the sermon.

It was an enjoyable experience, but I was glad that my wife, who was unable to be present, had read my sermon first. She has a seminary education and was thus able to offer a number of helpful suggestions for improvement. Without her valuable input, it probably would have read as more of a scholarly paper than a sermon. Thanks, Nancy.

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