The months of July and August traditionally see a summer slump in worship attendance. Nevertheless, local clergy continue to instruct and inspire those who manage to make it through the heat to a climate-controlled sanctuary. This week’s clergy discuss three different approaches to the summertime lectern.
The Rev. Thomas Boyd
Pastor, Church of the Nazarene, Massapequa Park
Recently, I began a sermon by saying, “Today I have the perfect summer sermon. Within this message, there’s a cruise, a trip to the ocean, time on a beach and a trip to a different country.” The message was from The Book of Job. The first component of preaching is communication. If I do not communicate with my congregation, then I miss the point. With this thought in mind, it makes sense to apply today’s events in a message. As for what makes a good summer sermon, I think it is the same components that make any good sermon. Even in the summer, we must preach the timeless truth of Scripture and we must apply that truth to life in the 21st century. Let me alter the question a little. What makes church good in the summer? The answer to that question is to make sure the warm weather does not make the preacher lazy. Just because the attendance dips in the summer does not give me permission to give less than my best each Sunday. So, a good summer sermon is one that engages the listener with the truth of God’s word. A good summer sermon is one that makes a person want more, not less. And by the way, it sure helps to have the building air-conditioned. When I was a boy, growing up in the church, our pastor would say in the summer, “As long as we have missionaries to support, we will not spend money on air-conditioning.” We all agreed. Our beloved pastor died of natural causes during the wintertime. By summer the church was air-conditioned.
Rabbi Andy Gordon
Temple Sinai of Roslyn
It should not matter whether a sermon is delivered on the hottest day of summer or the coldest evening in winter. In Judaism, a sermon is called a d’var Torah, a word of Torah, which is based upon the weekly reading from the Five Books of Moses. Luckily, the stories and lessons from the Torah don’t change. Over the next few weeks, the Jewish community will delve into the Book of Numbers, which addresses the interactions between competing groups in the Sinai Desert. Stories of rebellion and skirmishes remind us of the difficulty of navigating relationships with those around us, especially when we each possess such different viewpoints. Although the Torah remains the same, the world around us is constantly changing. It’s imperative that a sermon soothe the heart and uplift the soul. Many of us are searching for comfort and healing after the devastating massacre in France. Others are saddened by the recent shootings across our country and look for an approach forward around issues such as racism, security, injustice and violence. Our eyes now turn toward the election, as we reflect upon the leadership traits of our next president, who we hope will lead us toward a better tomorrow. A sermon is a sermon whether delivered in July or February. The only difference is that we now possess a little more time for reflection. May the words we hear guide us forward, pushing us toward action, to make our world a more caring, compassionate and peaceful place.
The Rev. Jerome Taylor
Hempstead Village Police chaplain and pastor, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Roosevelt
That’s hard to answer because I don’t look at it that way. When I’m preparing a sermon, I first look at the Gospel, then I consider the congregation and what is going on in the community, and how the Gospel is speaking to that context. Whatever the text is for that Sunday is what we preach. It’s a three-year lectionary that includes text from the Old Testament and the New Testament. By the time we finish the three years we have completed a survey of the Bible. It’s called the Revised Common Lectionary, which all mainline Protestant religions use. We also look at what’s going on in the world. We make applications so people understand the text for their daily living. This summer, current events have indeed influenced my sermons. I have sermonized extensively about the Black Lives Matter movement. I have explained how some people misunderstand the movement, it’s not about violence, it’s about justice. Those who are doing violence against police officers are not a part of this movement, they don’t represent the movement any more than the Ku Klux Klan represents Christianity. I also talked about how to respond appropriately to police officers when pulled over. I have prayed for the safety and care of all police officers as well as the safety and care of black men in this country. Right now we are praying to make sure that my church members get home safely, and that the police officers get home safely as well.