Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rethinking sermons

I have long been discontent with the style of sermon I often hear in many churches that I visit as well as the style of sermon I was encouraged to preach during my education. I think that I have begun to find words for this discontentment.

"Relevant to daily life" is the goal of all sermons, according to common wisdom. The parishioners should walk away with something they can immediately apply to their life. Some change of behavior, attitude, or sometimes belief.

Of course their is nothing wrong with this goal in itself, but here's my frustration. I believe that ultimately the best thing I can do for my community as a preacher is to give them a fuller, deeper, truer image of Jesus, God and the Gospel. And that if I am successful in that, then that will have a more lasting, and truer to the gospel, affect on their daily life.

But here's the rub. That's hard. It takes intense attention to the text, a willingness to embrace some mystery and paradox and to lay down what we think we know about Jesus and God, not to mention all of my skills as a communicator, just to try and show forth Jesus well. When I do try to make a sermon immediately "relevant to daily life" I usually circumvent the process of true exploration in search of some clever, relevant, interesting soundbite that I think people will remember.

And brother's and sister's in the ministry, I fear I've heard most of y'all do this too.

But maybe, when I've been doing this longer, I will find a way to do both.

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