Sermon Overtime
Basil the Great of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, Pastors and Confessors
10 January 2019

One of my father's younger brothers was an exceptionally bright man with a rapier-like wit. My uncle was the master of the clever riposte. One Sunday while shaking hands with the pastor after divine service, he responded to the pastor's genial "good morning," with an emphatic "good afternoon, pastor." It was, after all, a few minutes past noon. This elicited a hearty guffaw and perhaps all the heartier in the retelling over Sunday lunch that day. My uncle knew exactly how many minutes too long the sermon had been. However, I doubt that this witty fellow, if pressed, would have been able to recount what the sermon was about that day.


Some months ago, a member quipped that my Sunday sermon had been three minutes too long by his watch as we shook hands after church. I replied, "When the football game goes into overtime that is the most exciting part. No one thinks the game went too long." He acceded to this response. I hope he was listening to the overtime part.


It is one thing to hear a sermon, it is another thing entirely to listen to it. Our Lord tells us that we are truly blessed not only when we hear the Word of God, but especially when we hold it to our hearts as precious (Lk 11:28). God has given Himself to us in the divine Word. What a privilege to have God's own loving speech available to us. No wonder that Luther commends memorizing the Word of God. This is not child's play but is for everyone of every age.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"It is not only the people who greatly misuse and desecrate the holy day who sin against the third commandment (those who neglect to hear God's Word because of their greed or frivolity or lie in taverns and are dead drunk like swine). But even that other crowd sins. They listen to God's Word like it was any other trifle and only come to preaching because of custom. They go away again, and at the end of the year they know as little of God's Word as at the beginning. Up to this point the opinion prevailed the you had properly hallowed Sunday when you heard a Mass or the Gospel read. But no one cared for God's Word, and no one taught it. Now that we have God's Word, we fail to correct the abuse. We allow ourselves to be preached to and admonished, but we do not listen seriously and carefully.
"Know, therefore, that you must be concerned not only about hearing, but also both learning and retaining God's Word in memory. Do not think that this is optional for you or of no great importance. Think that it is God's commandment, who will require an account from you (Rm 14:12) about how you have heard, learned, and honored His Word."

 Martin Luther, 
Large Catechism, 1.96-98
Psalm 18:1-6

I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. (ESV)
Lord, help us ever to retain the Catechism's doctrine plain, as Luther taught the Word of truth in simple style to tender youth. Amen.
For Charlie Schorre, that the Lord of all blessing would grant to him peace as he prepares for heart by-pass surgery
For all those mourning the loss of loved ones, that they might say the Lord who gives and takes away is blessed
For all relief workers helping those displaced by disasters, that there would be sufficient support for those who have lost their homes and communities
Art: COSTA, Lorenzo Adoration of the Magi  (1499)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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