Amen! (scripture in sonata form)

So today in church I heard the best sermon ever.

Bear with me.

We’ve had guest preachers for the past two weeks because our preacher is in the hospital and won’t be released to go back to work for some time. Before that, he had been preaching from Nehemiah in the morning, which I barely paid attention to at all, and Revelations in the evening, in which I usually only perk up my ears for “fire and brimstone” because, let’s face it, that’s pretty cool. The guest preachers have been both in-house and imported, and it’s been interesting to see what and how they preach. Today the minister (wish I could remember his name) took a single verse (I think it was from Romans?) and went from there: that any true Christian, any child of Christ, is already saved, and doesn’t need to worry about judgment.

It wasn’t what he said; it was how he said it. It didn’t (doesn’t) matter whether I agree, disagree, care, don’t care, whatever. He had my attention for the entire 45 minutes. And that’s saying something, coming from a Catholic whose entire Mass usually lasted about 45 minutes.

He started off with a joke and some audience participation (“if you need to say ‘Amen,’ say it!”), which are always good (as long as the joke is good). But two things very quickly set him apart from every other preacher I’ve ever heard: his control over what he was saying, and the form of the sermon.

Yes. The form. I was listening to the first twenty minutes, where he was presenting the same idea (children of Christ will not be judged) in several (Jesus already died for your sins, you have nothing to fear) different (the Scripture says it here, and here) ways (we have nothing to worry about, because we are Christians!). He also presented a second, deduced idea, in as many ways: that as children of Christ, i.e. Christians, we are in Jesus, and He is in us, and so when judgement comes, will God judge Jesus? Of course not!

Right about the time I was wondering if he was going to go on like this for another 20 minutes, he switched gears. Noticeably. “So we must take this message to the world! The world is in need!” And I thought, “Heeeyyyy. That’s like a development! Where all of a sudden you hear g minor when you expect G major… wait.” And I followed his train of thought for the next 15 minutes: he went on evangelism for a while. In anticipation of opposition arising from evangelism, he pulled in refuting arguments and disproved them, and then he pointed out other scripture verses to reinforce the message that (RECAPITULATION) as Christians we will be saved. Quick 5 minute recap of the main points, then let us bow our heads in prayer. Oh my good gracious Coda. Pulls it all together, brings additional meaning.

And it wasn’t just (“just!”) that. He had complete control over the congregation at all times. When he wanted to fire us up, get a bunch of “Amen!”s, when he wanted to make us think, when he wanted to diffuse something particularly heavy by saying “Now turn to the person sitting next to you and say, ‘That’s pretty cool.'” His pacing, his tone, his inflections, were all impeccable.

It was one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time: a verbal sonata.

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