The Shortest Sermon Ever

A sermon preached on The Fourth Sunday of the Epiphany at the Anglican Church of St. Thomas, Kefalas, Crete, Greece, 11:00 am January 27, 2018.

clock_22 minutes, 42 seconds.

Musicologists, using the power of computing, analyzed the top-rated, best-selling hit songs. They interviewed over 500 people on their personal preferences and analyzed the songs they liked. Their conclusions, then, are based on hard facts – weeks on the Billboard charts, sales, or nowadays, downloads. And amongst many conclusions one was paramount  – the perfect length of a pop song was 2 minutes 42 seconds. Popular songs can be shorter by a bit, longer by a bit, but not much. Bob Dylan’s great hits like A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall at 6.55 is an outlier, the exception that proves the rule, not the norm.

By the way, the musicologists also found out the characteristics and the length of the worst possible song – 22 minutes – and then went ahead and composed it. It includes holiday music, bagpipes, pipe organ, a children’s chorus, a bossa-nova synth, and some unbelievable opera rapping.

Well, what’s the perfect length for a sermon?

About ten minutes and about God would be most people’s answer. At the other end of things I knew someone who justified 45 minute sermons on the basis that, “Sermonettes make for Christianettes.” And while I have been spellbound by preachers who go on that long, most of the time I am wondering when it will end. I know some people who would be just as happy with no sermons ever, because they are there for communion, and find the preaching just gets in the way; I sometimes wonder what kind of a spiritual life they have when they don’t need to be challenged by the preacher. If you know me you know that I appreciate good preaching and will preach at any service, even small mid-week liturgies.

great-isaiah-scroll-dss

The Great Isaiah Scroll, 1QIsa The Isaiah Scroll is the only complete biblical book surviving among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Found in Cave One at Qumran in 1947, it dates from about 120 B.C.E. Not the scroll from which Jesus read, but the one he used would have been almost the same.

Then there is Jesus. He preached the shortest sermon ever, on a text from Isaiah Chapter 61.

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

*Mic drop*

Short, eh? To the point. Now, when you hear the words of Isaiah, what do you hear?

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

If this was fulfilled in the presence of those who heard Jesus, my question to you is this:

  • How is it being fulfilled among us?
  • How is the good news being brought to the poor among us?
  • How is release being proclaimed to those in captivity?
  • How in our hearing are is eyesight to the blind being proclaimed?
  • How are the oppressed among us being set free?
  • How is the year of the Lord’s favour being announced?

We are the body of Christ, so do not doubt – this is happening. But let these questions rest upon you, and let me know what you think, because with or without me, with or without you, with or without us, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

And for the record, that sermon was 7 minutes and 30 seconds.


NB The suggestion of *Mic drop* comes from Frances Bryant-Scott.

About Bruce Bryant-Scott

Canadian. Husband. Father. Christian. Recovering Settler. A priest of the Church of England, Diocese in Europe, on the island of Crete in Greece.
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