In a delightful new book called The Sermon Maker: Tales of a Transformed Preacher (Zondervan Press), Calvin Miller does what he does best: weaves tales that make important points.
Miller, a long-time pastor who is now professor of preaching at Beeson Divinity School, is a preacher-poet with a gift for imaginative communication. (He will be one of the featured speakers at next year’s National Conference on Preaching.) In this funny, brief tale, we walk in the shoes of a preacher named Sam.
If you’ve had your own sermon critics within the congregation, then you’ll recognize Emma Johnson, for whom Sam’s homiletical offerinsg will never be quite acceptable. And you may also recognize yourself in Sam’s encounter with a heavenly visitor:
“Sam, don’t get up. You look good on your knees! It’s a healthy sign in the land where I’m from. My boss has been concerned that you haven’t been on your knees enough. It’s the best place to begin a sermon, you know.”
“Who is your boss?”
“He’s your boss too. We have the same boss. Let me introduce myself. I’ve come to pay you a call of mercy. Believe it or not I’m…”
“An angel?” Sam gasped.
Now he could see that the intruder had huge feathery wings arching above his shoulders. It was so uncanny, Sam wanted to laugh, but the severity of the intrider’s countenance made Sam retreat behind a wall of questions. “Well, what kind of angel are you? Are you Raphael, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel or Hazael? Are you one of the seven archangels?”
“Actually, I’m the eighth archangel,” said the intruder. “I’m Sermoniel, the Angel of Homiletics. I go around helping powerless preachers get it back.”
For the rest of the story, you’ll have to read the book.
While the story itself would be enough to make this book a worthwhile investment for any preacher, Miller provides a bonus: opposite each page of the story is a running set of notes and comments that allow you to further chew on the ideas implicit in Sam’s experience.
This is a book for every young preacher who needs to know that not everyone in the pews will be an adoring fan. And this is a book for older preachers who need to be reminded again that no matter who is in the congregation, ultimately we preach to an audience of One.
If you only read one preacher book this summer, read this one. Maybe it’ll inspire a heavenly visitor into your own life.

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