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Modulating Tension

How to maintain interest throughout a sermon

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We preachers know how to inject tension into a sermon. We may pose a question that cries out for an answer, or paint darkly some aspect of the fallen human condition that can be redeemed only by the good news of God's grace. We may tell a story.

We also know, though, that such tension doesn't last long. Listeners lose interest once the question is answered, the need is met by the gospel, the story is ended. How can we sustain tension and interest throughout the sermon?

A recent Preaching Today audio sermon (#200) by Haddon Robinson shows one way to meet this challenge. Here is how I would outline the tension of the sermon, " Life and Death Advice, " on Psalm 49 (Psalm 49:1-20):

  1. Robinson develops the idea of riddle and presents not only the riddle of the text but a contemporary riddle of his own, piquing our curiosity.

  2. Then the sermon explores the problem of why the evil seem to have it better in the world than those who try to live righteously.

  3. The sermon offers the first taste of resolution, showing that evil people ultimately have no advantage, for they die like everyone else.

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