“Peter’s First Sermon”

                                                Joel 2:28-29

                                                Acts 2:36-41

Dr. Peter Marshall
Dr. Peter Marshall preached his first sermon at New York Avenue PC on October 3, 1937

“Peter’s First Sermon”

On August the 10th 1986, at 8:00 AM in the morning, I found myself waiting to climb inside a highly elevated pulpit that had a huge, bell-shaped baldacchino hanging over it.  There was no microphone, just a heavy wooden canopy ominously suspended by a single chain from a 35-40 foot high ceiling.  And when my nerves got the best of me, the thought raced through my mind that once I stood up in the pulpit, that thing might drop on me if I really wasn’t supposed to preach.

So as I was sitting nervously in the pews awaiting the time for the sermon, suddenly a sunbeam shone through the tall, clear glass windows along the side of the church, and a light reflected right into my eyes.  And immediately I felt God’s warm presence, and I knew that He was reassuring me that I was supposed to preach.  And as I climbed up the steps into the pulpit, I felt the magnitude of what I was about to do – preach to my home church and also to my family including my mother and father who were seated in the pews.  I uttered a quiet little prayer, “Lord, grant me the strength to do this.”

Later, at 9:30 that morning, I preached to an even larger crowd.  And by 11:00 o’clock in the morning, there were at least 400 people gathered.  It was to all these people totaling about 800 in 3 services that I preached my very first sermon.  It wasn’t until Easter of 2012, 26 years later, that I actually preached to more people on a Sunday than that first sermon back in 1986.

In the receiving line after the last service let out, my pastor jokingly commented to another member, “I’m glad Earl’s leaving town to go to seminary or I might lose my job!”  My pastor was being very gracious and kind.  Nevertheless, the whole experience still confirmed the gnawing conviction that God had indeed called me to go into ministry and preach His Word.

Now as I look back on that first sermon, I know that it did not dazzle anyone with intellectual brilliance or wow anyone with elegant words or entertain anyone with gripping stories.  That first sermon was just a simple message about how God should be first in our lives.  It was basic and sincere, and it reflected the Scriptures.  And so something divine happened on that morning, which happens every time the Gospel is preached – no matter who is preaching.

The same divine event happened during Peter’s first sermon at Pentecost.  It wasn’t just Peter speaking.  It was God using him and speaking through him.  You see, God directly intervenes whenever the Gospel is proclaimed.  He turns the message into His living Word through His Holy Spirit.  Click on “Peter’s First Sermon” to see the rest of the message.


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