A long day, tomorrow.
I have to teach on the last four verses of the ninth of Daniel. Of necessity, at least it appears so to me, I have to make clear the difference between a more traditional interpretation of the text and the more popular views prevailing. This is because most people in the congregation don’t have it all that clear. Not that I mind: I have it clear and I’m looking forward to the questions. What I don’t like is how little it leaves for the point of the passage. My consolation is that I’ve already given some 80 minutes to the rest of the chapter of which it is a part.
We are also having baptisms tomorrow, and so I am going to take the structure of my sermon from the first paragraph of the 29th chapter of the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith. I hardly ever preach topically. This is not because I’m so convinced that the main method ought to be expository because that is always the best. I feel the main method ought to be expository in our day because we are ignorant of Scripture as seldom before. And in my case ignorant of rhetoric. So when I can borrow from the rather carefully considered, ordered and stated Confession, it’s a plus. Here’s the difficulty though: if you preach thematically you are constantly thinking of what you leave out. If you preach a passage and leave things out, it is not by your own choice. If you preach thematically and leave things out, it is. What if what you left out was crucial?
I also lead the worship tomorrow. The thing here is not to my liking: the men of the congregation take turns leading worship, and I am decidedly of the opinion that this is what the pastors ought to do. But I’m not in charge, and so I schedule myself in to do it once a month and this month I drew this certain day. It wears on the voice because I try to lead (our decisive pianist is not playing this Sunday), and often, since I tend to pick stuff for its appropriateness of form and content, it is less known than stuff that might be picked for reasons of personal preference. That was the great thing in the USA. There was no director for the music. When the hymn started, if the congregation was sitting, the pastor did as well. The instrument led. Here there isn’t even a place to sit down.
So then I have to direct the afternoon service of the baptisms. And since I’m not the one baptizing, I’ll be the one preaching. That one is easier: Ex 20:7. But I’m not so good at direct exhortation, putting the screws on people, you know? There are two ways of preaching the law. One is the delight of it. It is going to sound perhaps weird to dispensationalists, but the third use of the law is what we believe to be reason the Psalmist rejoices so much in the law. To think of the law exclusively as a list of personal restrictions is pre-conversion thinking. Nevertheless, even when one is free of the condemnation of the law, there is the oughtness of the law of God. Curiously, it is the commandments positively stated that seem to lend themselves more to the aspect of severity. Still, I feel I’m better with the other aspect . . . not the most prophetic preacher there is.
Then comes the baptisms, and they are not done quickly–nor should they. But the part that falls to me is the singing in between and maintaining the sense of order in the eventualities. I think I have picked 12 hymns for that part–better safe than sorry.
Direction requires projection, emfasis, energy, all that. And preaching is such a drain on emotional energy–besides the requirement of being friendly and polite all day (some people like that, for me it is like running a laptop unplugged for however long it lasts; wasn’t there a preacher who stayed in his study till the sermon, walked out and delivered, and then promptly retired? Can we go back to that instead of all this mingling?). I’m glad I understand some of these things now, because the truth is that before I did it, I never thought of it. And when I did it sporadically, going to preach somewhere and teaching in all the day’s services, it wasn’t the same. I suppose what you get here is the ability to observe over time, reflect, and realize what it is that’s going on.
Anyway, there it is. That’s something of what it is like for me of a Lord’s Day in the year of our Lord two thousand and twelve in the capital city of Colombia.