A recent estimate of American congregations gives us a much larger number. Hartford Institute estimates there are roughly 350,000 religious congregations in the United States. That could be over eleven million Sunday morning sermons just in my lifetime.
So, in my 73 years there would be approximately 3,800 weekends that I could have heard one of them. No, I didn’t attend every weekend, but there have been many years I’ve attended Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday and some years attended revivals that lasted six days – so I’ve probably heard a number of sermons close to that figure.
Which ones do I remember? Few. Top memory is Angel Martinez during a Billy Graham Crusade in Tulsa in the late 1950’s. There are several others I’ve heard, and many I’ve read. One was given by my husband’s 10th great-grand uncle, John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity,” the ending of which gives us “A City Upon A Hill.” One history explains how he:
… delivered this famous lay sermon aboard the Arbella to settlers traveling to New England. Although it is possible to exaggerate the significance of this particular sermon, which remained unpublished for two centuries after Winthrop delivered it, it nonetheless provides a clear statement of the sense of special purpose that helped motivate the settlement of New England.Sometimes a sermon title sticks in the mind and becomes confused with a verse. For example, although Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God” used Deuteronomy 32:35, it is often thought to refer to:
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31 KJV)
That confusion is one reason I study the Bible references in sermons, to see whether there are disconnects – and to see where the author made connections that are applicable in my life. Out of the multi-millions of sermons through the ages, the Bible still gives me the best I love and never tire of reading. Peter’s first sermon at Pentecost is always a heart catcher:
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: (Acts 2:14 KJV)
This is followed by the good news that was given to all men through prophecy across centuries. My second most loved sermon is Paul’s in Athens:
Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. (Acts 17:22-23 KJV)
A close third is the one Paul gave before Agrippa, who was convicted enough to say:
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. (Acts 26:29 KJV)
From those millions of sermons have come millions of people moving a step beyond Agrippa, people who publicly made their decision, stated their belief and confessed Jesus Christ as savior:
Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33 KJV)
Heard any good sermons lately?