It’s a weekly routine for me: I transfer the sermon I preached on Sunday out of my preaching notebook and into the notebook that contains all the printed sermons for the year. Because of the holidays, I just finished transferring the final sermon I preached in 2016 and closed yet another folder full of the year’s sermons. It’s always a bit surreal to look at this folder: it’s full of sermons that represent so many hours of my work life, so much struggle with the Lord and with the text, and so much crafting, prayer, and even disappointment when I wish the preaching of the material would have been better.
But here’s my point: Do you know that a preaching notebook is more like your mom’s cooking than you know?
Here’s what I mean. I would venture to bet that, if pressed, most of you wouldn’t be able to remember any of the sermons from this past year! Go ahead, try! And I don’t blame you. I typically preach a sermon and rarely can remember half of what I said by Wednesday of the same week! Now maybe you remember parts of some of the sermons, moments that God used to really encourage you through His word, or times when you felt He opened your eyes to see something you hadn’t seen before. I hope you saw Christ and were stirred to love Him, trust Him, rest in Him and obey Him more. But by and large, not many sermons were especially memorable, if at all!
And that is OK –why?
Because neither were the vast majority of the meals your mother cooked (and I mean no offense to your mom)!
Sure, you might have a few favorites; everyone does! Maybe you can taste her signature meal even now (I feel like I can taste my mom’s green chili chicken enchiladas as I sit here typing this). But the vast majority of the meals your mom prepared, slaved over, tirelessly shopped for, prepped and put together for you and your family to enjoy is relegated to the category of utterly forgettable. Three meals a day times 365 days is over 1000 meals. One-third of those were probably cereal or oatmeal or the occasional eggs and bacon and pancakes. Another one-third were most likely bagged lunches with your favorite chips or Hostess treats. And the final third were home-cooked labors of love.
And all that these meals did for you, though utterly forgettable, was provide nutrition to you that allowed you to grow healthy and strong in mind and body. That’s how food works. Sometimes a meal is memorable, but mostly three squares a day simply contribute to growth and strength in 1000 ways we’ll never see as our food is digested and then nourishes our cells. The benefit is mostly unseen. The benefit is certainly cumulative. And above all, memorable or not, if you don’t eat – you die.
It’s a lot like God’s word, isn’t it? Every time you read God’s word, or listen to God’s word spoken or preached, the believing soul is nourished. It’s no surprise that God’s word is often equated with food (Deut. 8:3), and the job of shepherding involves the task of feeding the people of God with the Word of God (John 21:15-17). And how much comfort do you think every preacher derives from this promise:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).
Your mother’s cooking and every pastor’s now-closed 2016 Sermon notebook are pretty similar. You’ve heard another year of preaching and as His word was digested, it nourished your spiritual cells in 1000 ways you’ll never see. The benefit to your soul is mostly unseen. And the benefit is certainly cumulative. Pastors want to preach memorable sermons, mom’s love to cook favorite meals, but both know the deeper joy and responsibility of seeing health, growth, and strength come through faithfully feeding those we love.