Martin Luther once said that when he preaches he doesn’t aim for understanding among the doctors and magistrates in his church but rather he sinks himself down deep and aims his message for the poor, the servant, and the children. I like the idea of having an intentional aim when it comes to the delivery of the message. One of the aims for me is to be aware that at the Living Stones Church on any given Sunday I have a handful of people who are battling cancer. Knowing this, I believe, helps me in regards to preparing and delivering the message:
1. Time is precious and it ought not be wasted on a stupid sermon. For someone with cancer, time has become a precious commodity (not that it isn’t for all of us…but they are now acutely aware of this reality) and they don’t have the luxury of wasting this precious commodity on a sermon that is ridiculous (and there are a lot of ridiculous sermons).
2. Hearing good news is more important now than ever. The name of Jesus is greater than any other name. Even the name “cancer.” Jesus is good news. Now, in their present affliction, and in their future glory. They need to hear, somehow, that cancer doesn’t get the last word – Jesus gets the last word.
3. Humor is good, being trite is not. After dealing with IV’s, medical charts, blood tests, scans, x-rays, being poked and prodded – the chance to laugh is welcomed. What is not welcomed is a long oration about Paul’s shifting eschatological expectations as revealed in his epistles to the church in Thessalonica. To someone with cancer – this is trite. So are long-winded messages on what we are against, why we are the only ones that are right, and that sermon that uses “PNEUMATOLOGY” as an acrostic.
4. God’s sovereignty and his goodness are still true. If I have cancer I’m struggling with all sorts of questions. Why is this happening to me? Will I overcome this? Etc. These questions naturally lead to an overwhelming feeling of being out of control. Thus, I need to know that God is control and that he is sovereign even in this situation. I want to know that I’m not at the whim of cancer. But I also want to know that God is good because after puking for the majority of the week I have doubts and I need to be encouraged again.
If I were teaching a class to preaching students, I would have in the instruction – “Remember, when you get up in the pulpit to preach, you are preaching to someone who is dying of cancer. Let that shape your message and delivery.”