I’ve recently been reading through J.I. Packer’s excellent book, A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan vision of the Christian life. In it, Packer weaves his way through the many facets of life as a disciple of Christ, pulling together the threads of Puritan thought to create a masterpiece of reflection.
In his chapter, The Puritan Approach to Worship, the significance of ‘preaching’ as worship stood out as a beacon of light. Of course this stands apart from our modern tendency to separate aspects of the gathered church into praise & worship times, and the sermon.
Allow me to draw your attention to a quote from this challenging chapter:
“For congregations, therefore, the hearing of sermons is the most momentous event of their lives, and the Puritans pleaded with worshippers to appreciate this fact, and listen to the word preached with awe, attention, and expectancy. Baxter put the point thus, in the course of his ‘Direction for Profitably Hearing the Word Preached’ in his Christian Directory:
Come not to hear with a careless heart, as if you were to hear a matter that little concerned you, but come with a sense of the unspeakable weight, necessity, and consequence of the holy word which you are to hear; and when you understand how much you are concerned in it, it will greatly help your understanding of every particular truth…
Make it your work with diligence to apply the word as you are hearing it… Cast not all upon the minister, as those that will go no further than they are carried as by force… You have to work to do as well as the preacher, and should all the time be as busy as he… you must open your mouths and digest it, for another cannot digest it for you… therefore be all the while at work, and abhor an idle heart in hearing, as well as an idle minister.
Chew the cud, and call up all when you come home in secret, and by meditation preach it over to yourselves. If it were coldly delivered by the preacher,… preach it more earnestly overt your own hearts…”
I loved the energy of this Baxter quote! A busy, energetic preacher, worshiping over the word with a busy, energetically listening congregation.
So I place aside my usual office of ‘worshiping preacher’ and take up my call now to be a ‘worshiping listener’. Will you join me?
Bring ears to hear. Eyes to see. Hearts to receive.
…and bring a pen and some paper!