Speaking with Nathan Reid
I love getting the opportunity to hear people preach. I am also curious about how different people prepare sermons. So with that in mind here are some questions I asked Nathan.
Can you think of a sermon that had a significant impact on you? Why has it stayed with you?
It was part of a sermon by Michael Frost at Morling College chapel in the mid to late ’90s. The sermon culminated in the last few verses of Luke 9:62, where it says, “Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” As Mike exegeted the passage and described ancient farming tools and methods, he dramatically re-enacted how gruelling it was for a farmer trying to juggle all the different elements of the task. He finished his explanation by highlighting how it could all go wrong with a simple turn of the head. I can still see the scene in my mind. He finished the sermon by singing in a broken voice, “I have decided to follow Jesus… no turning back, no turning back.” At the time, I struggled with the demands of studying and some difficult early ministry experiences. I felt grossly inadequate and like throwing in the towel. It was a fantastic sermon. It took me on a journey to the original context of the passage, helped me see things that were there in the text all along, but I had never noticed before. The sermon was a truth bomb around some of my expectations of what following Jesus is all about, yet at the same time, it was very inspiring.
What was your process preparing to preach at Seaforth?
I preached this sermon in the context of a relationship of partnership between Seaforth Baptist and Baptist World Aid. We collaborate around social justice initiatives and community development in Cambodia. Part of the context of the sermon means reporting back on some of these joint initiatives. Related to this, I was invited to speak as part of a series on work and faith. This has meant that I followed the series online to get an insight into the journey of exploration the church has already been on.
I was given the topic of Work and Justice. I like to preach from a primary text, but I always find choosing a text an intuitive and challenging process. In no particular order, I did some reading on the theme, studied different parts of Scripture, and prayed the Lord’s prayer with Seaforth Baptist in mind.
All of this together led to me doing some exegetical work on a few passages before finally arriving at Micah 4:1-5. Once I committed to this passage, I read through the book of Micah a few times. I then focussed on the oracle this particular passage is found in, reading and reading in the NIV, the NASB and an Interlinear Bible. In a preaching preparation journal I have, I took some notes from impressions, reflections and observations. My focus was trying to hear the passage as best as I could. I then read a few commentaries to enrich my understanding of the book, the context, language and other observations. I then wrote the sermon without illustrations in sort of a raw form. Then I look for illustrative materials that connect with the passage. In this case, I also talked to a few people about their experience of justice at work. I then tend to tinker with sermons until they are given endlessly.
Do you think sermons still have a role in a church’s worship gathering? Why/why not?
Yes I do. One of our core activities as the people of God is gathering under God’s Word, in the presence of his Spirit, to be shaped as disciples and discern together what God is saying to us as a community. We can listen to the word of God in many and diverse ways, be it read, recited and reflected upon. One of these valuable ways of attending to Scripture is through women and men gifted by the Spirit to preach and teach the word of God to his people. There is something special when this is done in embodied ways with a local community whom the church is committedto in mission.