In Spring 2019, I took a class on Preaching for Special Occasions. I grew in love and appreciation for preaching special events. Because of Truett’s preaching lab video recording, I was able to see my improvement throughout the semester through videos of five different special occasion sermons.
This post exists so I might share videos of these special occasion sermons, and my reflections on them.
Contents (click to jump)
Sermon Examples and Reflections
After-dinner speech. (Not a sermon, but a talk at a community special event).
Below, you’ll find video links to all of them, except the after dinner speech.*
Explanation of the Class/ Sermon Method
Dr. Gibson served as our professor, and was an incredibly helpful mentor. He emphasized Haddon Robinson’s method of preaching in which the sermon focuses on one “Big Idea”. For convenience, I’ve included the text, and summary of my “Big Idea,” below the videos, alongside brief comments.
Robinson’s “BIG IDEA” includes the following parts:
- A Subject / Question- What question is the Biblical passage asking?
- A Complement / Answer – How does the Biblical text answer that question?
- Main idea: How does the question and answer in this Biblical unit of thought come together to form a point?
This is an exegetical method of sermon writing. That means the sermon insists its main point, or “Big Idea,” spring forth from the main idea of the Biblical text.
- Homiletical Idea: Based on the Biblical text’s main point, the homiletical point answers the question: what is the point of the sermon to be communicated to the congregation? What is a one sentence summary of your sermon?
The videos are listed in the order they were delivered in the class. I’m sure you’ll be able to spot improvement throughout the semester. Dr. Gibson required we use no notes, which I struggled with at first. By the end of the course, however, I was able to remember and deliver sermons with much greater ease! However, that skill was only the tip of the iceberg of what I learned about preaching for special occasions.
Dr. Gibson was also insistent on a strict sub-10-minute time limit, not because sermons can’t, or shouldn’t, be longer, but to encourage us to practice direct and concise sermon writing in this class.
Playlist of all videos (link)
Reflection: While I think I did well on the reflections on Baptism, my hypothetical subject was a bit vague. I did not make enough connections between the text, and her baptism and her faith. In a real sermon, where I will know the candidate for Baptism, I hope I will take Dr. Gibson’s advice and bring out the connections to the life of the person being Baptism more explicitly. Also, in this first sermon without notes, I once said “Abraham,” instead of “Noah.” I know Noah built the Ark, not Abraham — you can see it is correct in the PDF outline — I paid attention in Sunday School (promise). Fortunately, silly mistakes became less frequent as the semester continued.
Text: 1 Peter 3:17-22
Subject/ Question: According to Peter, why should the Christian persevere in his or her witness?
Complement/ Answer: Christ suffered once for sins and rose again and proclaimed to the imprisoned disobedient spirits; in baptism we pledge ourselves to God and are saved by Jesus’ resurrection.
Main Idea: The Christian should persevere in his or her witness because Christ suffered once for our sins and rose again and proclaimed to the imprisoned disobedient spirits; in baptism we pledge ourselves to God and are saved by Jesus’ resurrection.
Homiletical Idea: The Baptized life is participation in the suffering, death, and resurrection of the self-giving savior.
Reflection: The chairs may seem odd, but they represent the bride and groom, my friends, Tyler and Kaitlin. They were married in January 2019 (I was not the officiant, but a groomsman). They are dear friends. For this assignment, I created this unique sermon for this special occasion, though they were already married, making sure not to use the same passage as was actually used at the wedding. I think I did a much better job making the sermon fit the couple, while retaining a good, biblical and theological point.
At this point in the semester, I was still too reliant on an index card I put into the Bible. I also had an attitude that preachers almost always have notes for weddings and funerals—why shouldn’t I? As the semester continued, I came to see that the point of Dr. Gibson’s “no notes” policy was not merely to be “hard-nosed,” but to encourage us to write clear and memorable sermons.
Text: 1 John 4:7-16
Subject/ Question: Why does the author of John say the Christian community should love one another?
Complement/ Answer: when the Christian community acts in love, God’s love (which they know by the Son who came so they may live through him) is made complete.
Main idea: The author of John says his audience should love one another because when the Christian community acts in love, God’s love (which they know by the Son who came so they may live through him) is made complete.
Context: Kaitlin recently graduated from Physician’s assistant school at the University of Dayton, Ohio. Tyler is a current Truett seminary student in Waco, Texas. They have been dating since February 2012. They attended K-12 at Deer Park school district, a small Cincinnati, Ohio, suburb, and both attended Georgetown College in Kentucky. They have been dating for ~7 years.
Homiletical idea: Live in love because God lives in you.
Purpose: As a result of hearing this sermon, I want my listeners to realize that this new marriage’s love is not separate from the love of God. Rather, we love in all of our different stations, and vocations, including marriage, because God is love, and God lives in us.
Reflection: This sermon was very personal. It is a funeral sermon for my grandmother, who died several years ago. If I sound a little stoic, it is perhaps because I did not want to get emotional and was laser-focused on delivering the sermon. Fortunately, enough time had passed that I didn’t get “choked up” during the sermon. I would encourage anyone listen to this sermon to read the scripture beforehand. Not only is reading the Bible passage a sermon comes from important, but I also messed up at the one point I did have text in front of me—the Bible reading! Such is life, sometimes!
I would not have been able to do sermon this years ago, when Mammaw died during the time I was in college. This was an important thing for me because it allowed me to foremost honor Christ and the hope of the resurrection, second to acknowledge the complex emotions and memories that come with the horrible case of death—especially death after a long and saddening sickness like Alzheimer’s disease. I know I did not say everything perfectly, but I hope I did justice to both my grandmother’s life and memory and the Gospel.
Text: Mark 9:14-31
Subject/ Question: What is Jesus’ response to the sickness and death that unclean spirits bring?
Complement/ Answer: Jesus casts the unclean spirits out, and steps in himself for those with little, or no, faith.
Main idea: Jesus’ response to the sickness and death that unclean spirits bring is to cast the unclean spirits out, and step in himself for those with little, or no, faith.
Context: Lorene Hall (1934- 2013) passed away with Alzheimer’s. Her connection to faith was complicated and, like many people’s faith, went through ups and downs. She is survived by her daughter, Lisa, her son, Freddy, and three grandchildren. Her husband died in 1993. She died due to complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. Her great loves included gardening, shopping at thrift stores, and fishing on the house boat with her family.
Homiletical idea: Amidst sickness, death, and our own struggle to have faith, Jesus delivers us.
Purpose: The purpose is to mourn the passing of Lorene and proclaim the Good News that Jesus delivers us from the body of sin and death.
Reflection: I personally find this passage one of the most interesting and captivating in the Gospels. Whenever I read it I think, “I want Jesus to explain all things in the Old Testament concerning himself to me!” Of course, Jesus still does that. The Holy Spirit still speaks. The church still gathers. The Word and Table are still here. And that, perhaps, is one of the key themes of my preaching: the Bible is not mere historic artifact. It’s precisely because we have a living faith that we approach the Bible as the Church, that we come to the Table as a Church, expecting that God always and forever keeps His promises.
Text: Luke 24:13-35
Subject/ Question: How is Jesus known and recognized by the two men on the road to Emmaus?
Complement/ Answer: When he opens up the scriptures to them concerning himself and is recognized in the breaking of bread.
Main idea: Jesus is known and recognized by the two men on the Emmaus road, when he opens up the scriptures to them concerning himself and is recognized in the breaking of bread.
Context: A communion service at 7th and James Baptist Church happens once monthly. It is usually a quiet and reflective time. In place of a normal-length sermon, the pastor preaches a shorter sermon/ homily and transitions at the end of the sermon from the pulpit to the table.
Homiletical idea: We come to the table to recognize Christ again.
Purpose: The purpose of this sermon is to assert that gathering together for the ministry of “Word and Table” are central to the Christian life, in an age (sometimes rightly) suspicious of institutions and ceremonies.
Video: *Sadly, I don’t have a recording of the after-dinner speech. It was delivered, well, after-dinner at Dr. Gibson’s house. Since it showcases all the times I’ve tried speaking other languages and made a fool of myself/ been misunderstood, I think it really displayed my sense of humor! Instead of a video, here’s a picture of the night our class had our after-dinner speeches.
Reflection: This was a LOT of fun! Dr. Gibson had us do an after-dinner speech, explaining that often pastors (particularly in smaller communities) are asked to speak at a variety of events. This is a chance to show one’s personality is multi-dimensional. And I know for me that it allowed me to show my sense of humor without fear of coming off as “insensitively irreverent”—something I never want to be in the pulpit. It was an interesting change of pace and made for a great evening. Maybe some of that joy can still be seen in the outline?
Subject/ Question: Why should one try to learn languages, even if lacking natural skill?
Complement/ Answer : Language shows us what is universally human, even in our lack of mutual understanding and inevitable differences.
Main Idea: One should try to learn languages even if lacking natural skill because language shows us what is universally human even in our lack of mutual understanding and inevitable differences.
Speech idea: Language shows us what’s universal, through a million large and small differences.
Purpose: To entertain and inform through example of the joy of trying to be understood even if one fails.