James had just got to that bit of his history tour de force describing the liberating atmosphere brought about by The Glorious Revolution and the arrival on these shores of William of Orange. Feeling that he’d missed an important bit out I shouted from the back that a predecessor of mine at South Street – its first minister and one time captain in Monmouth’s army, Thomas Miller was sent for by the king in 1688 and offered an Anglican living if he would ‘conform’. Miller was a free churchman to the core and declined His Majesty’s offer asking that he be given leave to remain a Baptist Minister. The king, apparently, gave him ‘full liberty’ so to do!
Well it’s a great story and I thought worthy of a bullish interruption from the back row! Fortunately James agreed with me and ecumenical relations have survived!
Now I’m not encouraging further congregational contributions this Sunday but it has got me reflecting about the way we all receive sermons. I suppose we can listen with too great a passivity – the preacher’s words floating over us and making the minimum impression. Jesus once told a story about that in the Parable of The Sower.
An alternative way of hearing is to do so with our hearts as well as our minds – a listening out for God’s word and voice and so letting the sermon pierce or ‘break through’ and touch us.
The Revd Andrew Fuller was the first secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society and he wrote these words during his days as a Kettering pastor in 1806:
You cannot conceive the difference between addressing a people full of tender and affectionate attention, whose souls appear in their eyes, and answer, as it were, to the word of God; and preaching to those who are either half asleep, or their thoughts manifestly occupied on other things.
Just love that phrase ‘whose souls appear in their eyes’.
Well I’m grateful to those who stay awake during my sermons and I hope James will forgive me for interrupting his.
This weekend we welcome the Sherriff family to church for the Infant Presentation of baby Harry and then in the evening service the Chaplain of St Margaret’s Hospice brings our Lent Lecture series to a close with a talk on ‘Queen and Voluntary Groups’ - and I promise to behave
With best wishes,