Concluding Like CalvinAugust 16, 2007
‘Conclusions’ are an area I need to work harder on in my preaching. Though I have heard some suggest that I should write the conclusion first in my sermon preparation, never have I found this approach workable. For me, I need the momentum of the whole sermon behind me in writing so that I can negotiate how best to conclude.
The downside of this approach, however, is that time runs short to put together a well thought-through finale. The closing appeal can be short changed, as can the amount of thought given to the closing prayer.
As I was pondering that today, I was reminded of some comments Steve Lawson made (in the Expository Genius of John Calvin) about Calvin’s conclusions – particularly regarding his pressing appeals and climatic prayer.
“After his final summation, Calvin skillfully transitioned to a pressing appeal, one final call for a humble response. Sometimes he enjoined confession of sin and sorrowful repentance, pleading with errant sinners to cast themselves in utter dependence on God’s sovreign mercy. At other times, he felt that encouragement for continued obedience was in order. Total life transformation was his objective, so he strongly challenged the wills of his people… ‘The preacher must speak’, Calvin said, ‘in a way that shows he is not pretending.’
“Once he had made his final appeal, Calvin concluded his sermon with prayer. Having brought God’s Word to the people, he then desired to bring the people to God’s throne. His intent was to leave them in the presence of the Father. These concluding prayers were vertical in thrust, pointing his listeners up to God. They unveiled the glorious majesty of God as Calvin made a final plea for the spiritual good of his people.” (Lawson, EG, p124-126)
Tomorrow morning then, I’m going to come back and have another swing at the conclusion I just wrote before lunch. Lord, inspire me to do better!