Every so often, a particular sermon stirs a congregation—and their pastor!—in stronger ways than usual. It happened with this sermon. I suspect that the theme of the passage had a lot to do with this. This text and its theme drove me to my knees more so than other passages I have recently preached. A compelling text, then, bathed in more prayer than usual resulted in a more pronounced movement of the Spirit in people's hearts. I know that the Spirit was stirring people by the stories which several people shared with me minutes after I finished preaching. The response confirmed what I suspected as I prepared and delivered the sermon. People hunger to know what faith is, what it is not, and how it can be sustained in difficult circumstances.
As I studied the text and prepared the sermon, I felt two main challenges. The first was determining the length of the passage. This is a perennial challenge for anyone preaching the gospels. I preached this as part of a series on the Gospel of Luke—a series titled "Jesus and God's Plan for a Broken World." When I came to Luke 7, I thought about limiting my text to verses 1-10. This is actually the story of amazing faith. But I am always on the alert for ways that the gospel writers develop themes or ideas by the way they place stories side by side. Our preaching of the gospels suffers, I believe, when we do not see the larger portrait which the evangelists are painting!
The more I read and reflected on the text, the more the connection between Luke 7:1-10 and 7:11-17 became visible. The first story reveals the kind of faith that impresses or amazes Jesus. But why should we be so impressed with Jesus that we have this kind of ...
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