Sermon series – there hasn't been a time when pastors haven't used them. They usually appear during Advent, Lent, and summer. They provide a nice "break" from time to time. But there are preachers who move from one sermon series to another the entire year. They often attempt to answer relevant questions: How can I have a stronger faith? How can I be a more patient person? What can I do when I feel adrift? Perhaps this format springs from a desire to create a "hook" that brings people back each week, much like movie theaters ran weekly serials along with the regularly scheduled movie in the '40s and '50s. the goal was to bring the customer back each week. Sermon series may also reflect the style of writing in some current TV shows, whose weekly episodes build on those of the previous weeks. Still, the question comes, "What if I'm not interested in the subject matter of this series?"

Perhaps the most universally interesting "series" is the four Gospels narratives. Each week the hearer experiences an episode from Jesus' life and ministry from beginning to end. The genius of this series is that Christ is always front and center and not tacked on at the end of the sermon as the quick fix to solve the particular problem which the series raises that week. On a small piece of paper taped behind more than one pulpit, I've seen the words, "Sir, we would see Jesus." That is a powerful tap on the shoulder to every preacher. Your hearers have come to meet Jesus. They have come to hear Jesus. They have come to receive Jesus in word and Sacrament and to express their thanks and commitment to Him with praise and thanksgiving. I could read a dozen books that tell me how to be a better parent, how to cope with loneliness, how to secure for myself financial peace of mind. Our preachers did not go to seminary to learn answers for those problems. The Bible was not written to provide those kinds of answers. But what we did go to school for was to learn how to diagnose all of those worries and anxieties as forms of idolatry and call the hearer to repentance. We went to seminary to learn how Jesus forgives and heals from such idolatries. When the man shouted to Jesus, "Make my brother divide the inheritance with me," I wonder how many of today's preachers would reply, "Next week I'm beginning a new series on how you can find financial peace of mind. Come and listen to it."

Jesus offers better, and so should our preachers. The preacher's challenge is to address concerns in such a way that Jesus' words are fulfilled: "He that hears you hears me."