Years ago William Stubbs, a young curate asked the then Bishop of Oxford for advice about preaching. The great man replied “Preach about God and preach about thirty minutes”. I’m not sure of this time limit because when I was a student we were told “If you haven’t struck oil in twenty minutes, stop boring”, but I have known some sermons cut short after 40 minutes while God was still speaking to his people who had forgotten the time and their dinners and themselves. I am sure however that his advice to ‘preach about God’ is the true subject of all truly Christian preaching. Too many church homilies are about us and our needs, our failings, our duties, our hopes and how we should behave. All sermons should be about God, and all sermons should have a clear aim, a goal, a point, a purpose.
The 4th Gospel in the New Testament, tells us exactly why it was written and what its clear purpose was and is.It doesn’t attempt even to try and tell everything about Jesus.In fact let us hear in John’s own words why he wrote his gospel.
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20: 30-31
So when speaking of Jesus either in public preaching or in private conversations, you cannot say everything there is to tell. You must select what is relevant. Today, think of your neighbours or work mates and ask ‘What do they most need to hear about Jesus’, and who will tell them if I don’t? By the way, the fourth Gospel ends with these last words, which explain why Christians must select carefully what they tell about Jesus:
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:25
Today, Lord, we pray for all who preach and teach your word – grant them courage to tell the truth, clarity to make it plain, and the common touch to show its relevance.
Now read Acts Chapter 20.