So, then, perhaps the most important question is not, “How long should I spend preparing my sermon?” The more important question is, “How long will it take me to work through the process of answering all the questions I have of this passage?”
Giving advice on reading runs the risk of sounding pretentious, as if it’s a badge of honor to be a “serious” reader rather than just an ordinary reader of books. But I’m going to risk the danger of sounding elitist here, if only because I’m frequently asked how I read so much on top of a busy schedule, and because I’ve been helped so often by articles like this one.
Here are some tips that have helped me maintain a regular rhythm of reading.
The gospel, you see, shows us something about God that creation could never show us: Our God is a faithful, pursuing Father who wouldn’t let us go even after we rejected him. When it came time to pour out his judgment, he poured it out first on himself, and he will release us from our punishment if we will accept that and trust it.
There is a manner of ministry that is more about self-service than self-sacrifice, self-indulgence than self-discipline, and self-promotion than self-denial. There is also giving that is designed for recognition—plaques on walls intended to be read by generations to come, or press releases informing the world of “generous donations”; prayers in pristine Cranmerlike language of the sixteenth century suggesting depths of personal piety; fasting that is shown via open-necked T-shirts revealing a ribbed torso.
Listen to Brian’s and my conversation about this Christian cliché on The Hero of the Story.