Monday, August 19, 2013

On Sermon Writing

Sermons, as part of the Holy Eucharist service, with it's weekly lectionary, "come around real regular." Sometimes, I find the time between sermons insufficient.  Such was the case the week just past.

Texts are always multi-faceted (philosopher Paul Ricoeur would say that there is always a "surplus of meaning").  Preachers therefore have to edit.  Usually best to focus on one facet.  Last week, I decided to give a summary description of a few of the various facets I saw.  I needed another week to edit it down to one.  I just couldn't decide, couldn't choose.  So, rather than doing one facet justice....

All preachers preach "clunkers" from time to time.  Preachers are also notoriously bad at knowing a "clunker" when they give it.  They usually love the clunkers and are embarrassed by the sermons that are actually effective proclamations of the gospel.  Anytime I preach, what I am sure is the worst sermon I have ever preached, I'll receive handwritten notes about how important the sermon had been to someone.  And, conversely, when I am just sure I "hit the ball out of the ballpark," I stand at the back door shaking hands wondering why no one is saying how wonderful the sermon was.

Next time I get to preach to preachers, I should reflect on the hubris of preachers and how hard the Holy Spirit has to work around us.  I envision the Holy Spirit as a contestant on this "ninja" game show I saw my son watching on T.V.  The goal is to complete an obstacle course.  Some contestants make it to the end. Some do not.  The sermon, in this analogy, is the obstacle course.  The Holy Spirit is the contestant.  The goal is for the Holy Spirit to get through "the obstacle course" and reach a listener, usually in a pew, with some good news.  We preachers can create some challenging "courses."

As I think about it, I kinda like the image of the Holy Spirit as a ninja.  Goes rather well with the "not peace but a sword" text of last week.  Good thing I didn't think of it last week.  It would have ended up another "facet" that I felt compelled to explore!

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