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The Make Up of the Sermon


         By the make up of the sermon is meant the manner and the method of its construction or composition. As Truth is infinite, and as our subjects are of the Truth, it is readily seen that each subject may be treated an indefinite number of times and each time be practically a new sermon. By this, it is not meant that no sentence contained in a former sermon will be repeated, but because of its use in an entirely different connection, it will possess new meaning and throw new light upon a never-ending theme.

         While the makers of the sermon seek to avoid the oft repetition of favorite texts from the Bible and passages from Science and Health, a student could make no greater mistake than to object to the use of such Scripture because contained in some previous sermon. Illuminated by its new surroundings, it has become a new gem, even as precious stones under changing lights become transformed.

         The character of each sermon is largely determined by the purpose in view. The end which is to be accomplished will guide the selection of the proper passages. In the first sermon on God, the purpose was to show the true thought of God as revealed by the Scriptures. In the second sermon, the purpose was to show how the Heavenly Father is to be understood. A third sermon might show what is meant by God as Principle, and thus new light would be continually coming to the same grand theme.

         So much for the sermon as a whole. Each sermon also has its parts or sections, I., II., III., etc. As all have observed, each of these parts deals with some one special phase of the subject under consideration, and each part helps to make the whole understood; even as head, trunk, and limbs, as parts of the whole body, have their special functions, and minister in their special ways to the whole, so do the various parts of the sermon have their special uses, perform their special functions, and minister in their special ways to the whole subject. In the first sermon on God, it will be remembered that the sections brought out the thought of God, first as Creator, second as Principle, etc; each section unfolding more of the divine nature, and each part ministering to the whole subject.

         The use of the Bible texts is threefold. First. — It may give an exact definition of the subject. As in the sermon on God, in Section VIII., which treats of God as Love, the Bible text affirms that God is Love. Second. — The Bible text may contain a statement which Science and Health unfolds. In the sermon on Soul, one of the Psalms is quoted as saying, “Bless the Lord, O my Soul.” The correlative passages from our textbook show that the Bible uses the word Soul in two meanings: first, it is applied to Deity; next, where it refers to the Spiritual sense; third, the Bible text may be figurative or symbolic, which the parallel passages from its Key will make plain. An excellent illustration of this is to be found in the sermon on Man, for February 26, 1899. Section III. treats of the false testimony of the five material senses regarding man. The Bible text is from Ezekiel, 14: 1-6, and at first glance there might appear to be no connection between this text and the explanatory passages from Science and Health. Study, however, reveals that the “idols,” which the prophet describes as stumbling-blocks, are the false evidences, the lying testimony, of material sense. Thus does the energizing spirit of Christ-Truth cause the dry bones to live.

         It may be asked, why the sections are not named, so that the student may readily tell what the sections contain. First, because each student should do his own work, the requisite study to discern the contents of the section is part of the preparation for understanding and for reading that section; again, the proper naming of the sections is at best a matter of human opinion, and human opinion begets discussion, and sometimes controversy; finally, the introductory note affirms that the Christian Science sermon is “uncontaminated and unfettered by human hypotheses.” Composed as it is at present wholly of the Bible and “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” this assertion is absolutely true. On the whole, then, it seems wise that the naming of the sections should not be a part of the sermon, but should be the work of each individual.

         Study reveals progress in each lesson; there is introduction, body, and conclusion. The first section may affirm the scientific fact regarding the subject, and the following sections in an orderly way explain this fact; or the introduction may hint the reality, and that which follows unfold this hint in Scriptural order, “first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.” It is seen, also, that each lesson denies the error and affirms the truth regarding the subject. The false teaching is suggested and the true teaching plainly set forth which destroys the false. Through the entire sermon there is the single theme or subject, even as in a grand anthem there is one theme which each note, chord, and harmony unfolds, develops, and strengthens. So each verse and sentence of our sermon echoes and re-echoes the divine Truth which, when heard, gives melody and harmony, and brings the eager listener into tune with the infinite Principle of all harmony.

         While it is not to be understood that the Golden Text and Responsive Reading form a part of the sermon, nor that in any sense they form the text of the sermon, as in the former International Lessons, yet they do fulfil their mission. The Golden Text may be said to contain the fundamental thought with which the sermon deals. It is a general statement of Truth which the sermon elaborates. The responsive reading, while entirely separate from the sermon, deals with the same subject from the sacred author’s point of view. While no part of the temple (sermon), it may be called the stairway which leads to the temple, warning the worshiper that he is drawing nigh unto the holy place.

         The Christian Science sermon, then, is a complete whole of various divisions. It is a God-given structure, with foundation, walls, and arching roof. It is a flower of many parts unfolding its divine order, even as the petals of a rose open to the genial greeting of the summer’s sun. Our next article will help in the interpretation of this structure to those whom we serve as guides, to increase the appreciation of our sermons, God’s love-tokens, so that their reading will bring rest to the heavy-laden, life to the dying, and light and joy to all.

 

"The Make Up of the Sermon"
Christian Science Sentinel, March 9, 1899
 

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