It was an unusual day today. I expected to be taking both services at Derwent Free Church. It started badly. I use my mobile phone as an alarm clock. Last night, I set it for an early start. It is much better at waking me up that the ‘real’ alarm clock in our bedroom. Last night Susan also asked me what time I was getting up as she was setting the ‘real’ alarm. I assumed she was setting it for the time that I wanted to get up. “Aha! Additional backup”, I thought. But this morning I discovered a) my phone ran out of charge and so did not go off, and b) Susan actually set the alarm an hour and a half later than I wanted – she was not setting it for me at all, but for her. And why not.
I was not well prepared for the day as a whole so the late start meant a busy day in prospect. I was ready for the morning, but had some work to do for the evening. When I arrived at the church building in the morning, I discovered my colleague David had also prepared for the morning service. I thought he was visiting a church in Oxford today! It turned out that there had been a misunderstanding about the arrangements for the holiday period. My natural reaction was to be miffed because I was right and everyone else was wrong, of course! However, after a few minutes thought I realised what a blessing this was. David could preach in the morning, and what I was to preach in the morning, I could deliver in the evening instead. The benefit was that I could rest in the afternoon.
I preached on Eph 2:13 on alienation from and reconciliation to God, through the blood of Jesus. I think the first two points were ok. The last point, on the means of reconciliation (the blood of Jesus) was a but of a mush. It was too long, repetitive and flabby to be much use. It lacked the firm pointedness for the end of the sermon.
Such thoughts one time would have got me down badly. Now, after nearly a year of regular preaching, I am thankful to God for the chance to learn how to improve focus in my preaching. I am thankful to God for the change of my attitude. Susan is my best and most useful critic.
I was also tickled by one particular response to the first point of my sermon. We have a handful of children who who live nearby who come to the evening service. We don’t put on anything fancy for them – just a straight service. Of their own initiative they have been coming regularly now for a few months, which is a great blessing. I introduced the first point by telling the congregation that I wanted to talk to them about aliens – yes, aliens! All of a sudden the row of little heads looked up with smiles on their faces and some laughed. I was not expecting the strength of this response. Of course, they were thinking about a certain kind of alien, but it grabbed their attention for a while in order to be able to introduce the idea that anyone who is not a Christian is an alien to God and needs to be reconciled to him.
The evening was rounded off with fellowship at the home of one of the member families.
Praise God! A good day.