Tonight I preached at The Open Door. All went well – the sermon was fine, the rest of the service worked out alright, no major technical problems. But I made one major mistake: I forgot to read the scripture passage!!
Here’s the explanation: Reformed theology says that a prayer of illumination should always come before the scripture reading in a worship service. We do this because we acknowledge that without the Holy Spirit’s help, we cannot understand scripture. I, however, in past preaching experiences had fallen into the bad habit last year of always reading the scripture passage, then praying, then moving into the sermon. So tonight I decided to make a conscious attempt to place a prayer for illumination in the correct place. So I prayed before the scripture reading, and then because I’m in the habit of moving straight from the prayer to the sermon, I completely skipped over the scripture reading! I was completely oblivious to this until Eileen tried to explain it to me when we got home tonight. She even tried to interrupt the sermon to tell me to “read the passage”. I thought she just meant the verse I was referring to at that particular portion of the sermon, so I re-read verse 25 and moved on. Only now, an hour and a half too late, am I realizing that I actually omitted the core portion of the worship service. John Calvin would role over in his grave. I talked about the Word in my sermon, but failed to read the Word of the Bible. Praise God for grace – now let’s hope no hardcore Presbyterian pastoral nominating committees find this out.
For those of you who were there tonight, the full passage was Ephesians 4:17-32 –
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Those who have been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who
listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (TNIV)