The other day on the subject of preaching and/or reinventing the sermon, I mentioned a multimedia experiment I had done a few years ago. I had been thinking for a while about publishing it online, and now that it’s come up right in season I think I’ll go for it.
The original form of this article was a “sermon” delivered on Palm Sunday 1998 in the church of which I was then a part. The idea was to try something very different and unique with the sermon, and with this in mind, I decided to attempt our first multimedia sermon. These days it’s quite common to see PowerPoint presentations of a preacher’s sermon notes projected overhead… but this is not at all what I was going for. For this experiment, graphics were projected onto a screen as visual aids during the ‘sermon.’ Sometimes I referred directly to the images, and sometimes I did not… they were there to draw the attention and help grasp an overall picture of the story. I did not refer the congregation to any text, and did not encourage them to take notes. On the contrary, I warned them that there was to be no outline, no "points," no (verbal) illustrations, no conclusion, and no application. I would just lay out for them the story of the way it happened, and leave the application to them. All in all, we felt afterward that the sermon was quite well-received.
The sermon introduction actually ran something like this:
This morning we are going to approach the idea of a sermon a little differently than usual. I’m not going to ask you to open your Bibles and turn to a specific text, because I’m going to take information from several places, and it would be almost impossible to follow along. I’m not going to give you much in the way of snappy illustrations today, and I’m not even going to tell you how to apply the sermon. I simply want to tell you a story this morning: the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. This is a special story we call The Passion, and it is appropriate to discuss during Holy Week, or Passion Week, which begins today with Palm Sunday. What I want to do today is to try to harmonize the four gospels, together with some additional historical data in order to be able to tell you, “this is the way it happened.” “Here’s what ‘went down’,” in another vernacular. Now the exact chronology is a bit difficult in places, so there are a few things that are merely approximations, but it all happened during passion week pretty much the way I’m going to lay it out for you.
I’m also going to make use of visual aids this morning for several of the events we will discuss. Some of the pictures we will look at are merely artists’ conceptions set down centuries later; some are models, and some are modern-day photos – but I trust they will all help us to form a reasonable picture of first-century Jerusalem in our minds.
While the original presentation was a single unit, I will be breaking it down into the days of Holy Week for online publication. Of course, so much could be said of each individul event, so if it appears “light” in places, this is due to the goals and constraints of the original format. Edits have found their way in, but not in a major way.