It was one of the things I loved most about my previous church. And it’s one of the things I’m already seeing that I will love about my current church:
They love the most basic sermons the best.
I don’t mean “basic” as in “simplistic.” As far as I know, I’ve never been accused of dumbed-down messages. By “basic” I mean bread-and-butter sermons. Keeping the plain things plain, and keeping the main thing the main thing. I love that the people I serve love to hear the old, old story one more time. They’ll be interested in millennial views, but they’ll thrill to hear about the God who saves.
You’ve probably heard the quip that the first generation believes the gospel, the second generation assumes the gospel, and the third generation loses the gospel. That’s true, and sadly, it happens. But I think there’s another step in there somewhere. It’s called getting bored with the gospel. Maundy Thursday no longer moves us. Good Friday doesn’t feel that good. Easter isn’t a big deal. It’s just the same passages, the same services, and the same kind of sermons.
Beware when the cross and the empty tomb cannot compete with March Madness and The Masters.
Many of us will turn to the old familiar hymns this week. I hope we are paying attention to the words. We’ll sing of that sacred head now wounded and of surveying the wondrous cross. We’ll shout Hallelujah! to the man of sorrows. We’ll wonder again how can it be that I should gain? We’ll remember the one who was stricken, smitten, and afflicted. We’ll ask how our holy Jesus hast offended. And then two days later we’ll announced that Christ the Lord is risen today. What a privilege to rehearse the good news in song for yet another year.
Sometimes the people get bored, but too often the preacher gets bored first. Careful, pastor, this is not the week for trying new things and introducing new themes. It’s the week for celebrating old things that still have the power to make us new.
Let us not wander far from sin, salvation, and judgment. Let’s not strain to make ourselves relevant to the politics, the pop culture, or the presidential controversy of the day. Christ’s death and resurrection will be relevant on its own. The message of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is still the message people need. They need to see the cross—who was hanging there, why he had to die, and why he could not stay dead.
Sin is worse than you think. The good news is better than you imagine. That’s what our people need to hear.
Jesus lived. Jesus died. Jesus lives again. Christ arose. Christ reigns. Christ will return. We have sinned. We will die. We can live forever.
Keep is simple. Play it straight. Preach Christ and him crucified.
As Christians, this is our Holy Week, and this is our Happy Week. Joy in suffering. Victory in defeat. From darkness into light. We must not shrink back from singing and sharing and savoring the whole counsel of God, and especially the gospel delivered to us as of first importance (1 Cor. 15:3). It is, after all, the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16).
The gospel still saves. We have no reason to be ashamed of blood and wrath and death, for without them there can be no cleansing and forgiveness and life. Let us not tire of singing the same old songs. Let us not be bored in preaching the same good news. And let us never grow weary of the same rugged cross.