Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sermons at the Wrong Time

This is just a quick post about something that I have noticed amongst some of my fellow Christians-- that is, a tendency to give sermons at the wrong moments.

I'm really thinking of times when people are brought low, are upset about something, or are angry about something.

If someone is having a really bad streak of luck, and desperately wishing for their luck to change...in my view, it's simply unfeeling to remind them that God sends good luck and bad luck, that we are redeemed through suffering, etc. All that might be true, but it's very easy for you to preach it at that moment. And not helpful.

If someone asks you for prayers for a specific purpose, and it's not immoral, I recommend you tell them you will pray for that purpose. Don't give them a homily. They didn't ask for one. Don't tell them to offer it up. They know that already and they are probably doing it already. They might have been doing it for weeks, months and years already.

Similarly, if somebody is very angry about some kind of mistreatment, giving them a lecture about forgiving their enemies is probably not helpful (in my view). It's easy to recommend forgiveness to other people.

OK, if someone you know is smouldering with bitterness for a long time, then perhaps it is justified. But if someone is in the throes of anger, and it's probably going to burn itself out anyway, why upset them more with ill-timed advice?

Imagine you were at a funeral and one of the bereaved said that the deceased was an angel in Heaven now. Would you say: "Actually, she's not an angel, that's theologically illiterate. And we can't say she's in Heaven, we can only hope she is."

Of course you wouldn't.

Well, admittedly, that's an extreme example, but I think the principle applies in less extreme cases. If someone comes to you looking for comfort and consolation, don't give them a sermon. Give them comfort and consolation, if you can.


  1. Dear Maolsheachlann,

    Very sound pastoral advice.

    I enjoy your writing very much.

    Fr. D

    1. Thank you, Father, I very much appreciate that.