Wednesday, November 17, 2010

To Preach

Revhipchick discusses her "conundrum of preaching" here and I confess I could relate to many of her comments about wondering about how to preach.

There have been many times where I felt tingly because I knew what I was preaching was so true and so focused, probably the best I could do as a human being trying to receive and channel the Spirit. And no one said anything afterwards. No one blinked. No one fell out into in the aisle, slain in the Spirit. No one shouted, "Amen." So maybe I was wrong.

Then there are times when I feel like my examples aren't meaningful to me, the connections are so-so, the upshot feels a little platitudinous and people love it. I see eyes surreptitiously wiped and receive comments days later about how people are still thinking about the sermon.

That's when I know it's not all me. It's not even mostly me.

Yet, with preaching, it can feel a lot like mostly me doing the work.

I've asked people what they'd like to hear about. (Asking what you'd like to hear about is different that asking what you'd like to hear.) More history? Theology? Church doctrine? Modern parables? Explanations? Apologetics?

I think it's easy to forget that, in the scope of history, it has only been a short time since the pastor had all the church power and made unilateral decisions. Though the work of the church has always been the work of God's people, it's only been a short time that all God's people have been invited into that work. That all people are afforded access, to the best of their ability, to the tools of a Bible, dictionaries, histories, commentaries and... Wikipedia.

Preaching changes as people have more information. In a world of facts and time demands, the slow wait and mystery of faith can be frustrating rather than intriguing. A pastor's dance through what we know to be true and what we believe to be true can seem like tap-dancing rather than honest admission. And, despite the best efforts of many, people still look for ways to assure themselves of having achieved salvation. (Or, in some cases, assure themselves of being in the process of santification.)

And preaching has to deal with all these realities.

Most preachers have a tune. A basic melody that undergirds their sermons. Overtime, you'll see the wind-up and hear it comes...

Mine is this: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation. will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

All my preaching gets back to that. And, I hope and pray every time, that at least one person hears that, through the help of the Spirit, in their heart.

1 comment:

angela said...

Lutheran to focus on that Romans 8...in all the best ways. We even grieve with hope in grace. Whenever I am around my more exuberant family members they try to say nothing and all I feel is judgement. I do not feel this in Lutheran church or from the members. Thank God.