This is a short blog series from me and a few of my preacher friends. Since many preachers spend Monday mornings replaying their sermons– figuratively or literally–I figured this would be a good time to reflect on the weighty and complex task we’ve agreed to undertake each Sunday. Read Part 1 on the tension between precision and simplicity HERE; read Part 2 on how the congregation is a collaborator with the preacher in deciding what a sermon ‘means’ HERE; read Part 3 on how preachers can paint a narrative arc to help with biblical illiteracy HERE.
What originally fascinated me and captured my imagination (and what ultimately, I think, laid the groundwork for my feeling called to this peculiar and beautiful craft) was watching my pastor preach when I was a kid. There was something so now, so alive, so in the moment about his particular address to the congregation. Or at least it was so when it was good, and that was often. There was a moment of transcendence, an almost supernatural awareness, a gravitas, that drew you in and caused all sorts of beautiful ruptures and fissures in your soul, opening you up to God and his world in fresh ways.
After now having preached hundreds of sermons and worked through this process hundreds of times, I can say on good authority that such a conviction is total nonsense. Over the years, if I had to reflect on what has changed about my process, I would say somewhere along the way, the line between “study” and “prayer” has virtually evaporated (meaning that I am now more charismatic as a preacher than I have ever been), and thus, what each of those (only artificially distinct) elements yields and brings to the table now bleed into and mutually inform one another, with the result that I am far more capable now than I have ever been of staying attuned to the “qol adonai”–the living voice of God for the congregation, channeled through my own unique voice. I do not look up Greek words and then later on, sometime after “working hours” have ended, pray over what I learned. No, no, no. While the Greek word is in my hand, I lift it up, look at it, pray over it, and try to listen to my heart, where, we are told, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Word, dwells. Is there something on this word, this phrase, this concept, this story, that feels like “it”? Does it carry an energy? Does it hum? Do I feel like God is speaking to ME through IT, NOW?
It allows me to keep my process connected to my heart.
It allows me to be okay with not emphasizing this or that word, or this or that piece of the text (after all, if what we’re gunning for is not mere “exposition” but for this bit of text to become the living word of God for us NOW, and we only have 30 minutes, how ever could we say everything that needed to be said exegetically on every piece of the text?–there’s an inherent selectivity to the process that more preachers would do well to pay attention to).
It allows me to stay in the moment with God and what He is doing and saying over me, and us, NOW.