A sermon by Earl Palmer taught me an indelible lesson about the spiritual impact a few words can have. Palmer's message explored the sixth commandment—you shall not kill.
"This sixth commandment," said Palmer, "tells us not to cross over the right of another person to life. We are not willfully to harm. We are to weigh someone else heavy; we're not to weigh them light."
The phrase "weigh others heavy" riveted my attention. It captured a world of meaning in a creative few words.
In sermon preparation now, I may spend from thirty minutes to an hour developing such a key phrase. I'm looking for canvas to hang from the mast, for words that catch the wind.
Although keen emphasis on one phrase doesn't suit every sermon, the search for the best term clarifies my thinking, enhances my insight into the text, and forces me to look at the daily world of my listeners. If nothing else, I have my sermon title. And if I do find words that catch the wind, a sermon can almost write itself.
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