Sunday, May 03, 2009

Preaching?

Many of you know that I'm involved with our companion diocese relationship with the Diocese of Lui in southern Sudan. I chair the committee that coordinates that relationship. I urge you to visit the two blogs where folks are talking about that relationship and our work in Lui: LuiNotes and LuLuLui.

Not long ago, one of our priests on the Companion Diocese Relationship Committee sent an e-mail to all our diocesan clergy, letting them know that our committee members and missioners are available to offer programs about the companion relationship. We've had a reasonably good response.

One of the rectors asked us to come do a program about the companion diocese relationship on May 31 (Pentecost). I agreed to do the program. Soon thereafter, the rector followed up by asking whether I'd also be willing to preach on that day.

{sound of screeching brakes}

For the last few months, as my priest has used some lay preachers in our parish, I have been feeling something like a "nudge" – thinking I might like to preach occasionally. But I did not and probably never would have asked for an opportunity to preach here in my parish. It's rather funny (or perhaps providential?) that I've been invited to preach in another parish.

I pondered the invitation from this other parish for a couple of weeks, and consulted with my rector to be sure this is OK. [I thought preachers had to be licensed, but apparently that's not required for a one-time preaching gig.] After much pondering, I have now accepted the invitation to preach. I'm scared and excited and humbled and scared. (Did I mention scared??? ;-)

Oh! And no pressure. It's "only" Pentecost ... only one of our High Holy Days.

Fortunately, I already have a "hook" for the sermon, because of the experience I had back in Lui in 2007, worshipping with the people in Lui , where we all came together in one accord. I had an experience of the way that the Spirit can bring us together despite differences of language and culture.

Thank God [literally!] that I have a full month to prepare my first-ever sermon.

In my professional career, I've done a lot of public speaking. I have spoken at many regional, national, and even international conferences. They don't intimidate me. I'm comfortable with public speaking; in fact, I love it! But doing a sermon ... preaching the Gospel ... especially to a parish I don't know .... That is a whole 'nother thing altogether. It is profoundly humbling. Preaching isn't about conveying information; it's letting the Spirit use me as a vessel for what needs to be said.

I know that.

I thought you all might be interested to know this. I will covet your prayers. And I will welcome your counsel. Seriously!

I hope you will use the comments section to talk with me about how you go about preparing sermons, what preaching means to you, and so on. I will be reading your comments gratefully.

Yes, I also have a couple of people here locally who have good resources, are good preachers, and have promised to walk with me through the process. So it's not as if I'm being left to my own devices. In fact, today I met with my rector to ask her what are the mechanisms she uses to preach. My current plan is to pray the readings for a few days ... then look at the scholarship on these readings ... then begin to write the sermon. That general shape makes sense to me.

Still, I would appreciate your insights and counsel. I know many of you are priests and/or preachers. I would love to hear what you have to say to this newbie preacher.

11 Comments:

Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...

No insight here; never done it. But it is still incredibly cool!

The only thing I can say teaching medical students is the world has NO LONGER than a 20 minute attention span (which makes me having to give a 50 minute medical student lecture a somewhat pointless task.) But I always tell myself to put the good stuff at the beginning and the end for that reason.

So no preaching advice, just "attention span advise!"

5/03/2009 10:17 PM  
Blogger Josephine- said...

1st, you'll do fine!

2nd, have fun with it! (really)

My only council is that brevity is NOT a bad thing. I know some schools of preaching will disagree but I say ignore them. Have a point, one main point, drive it home and leave them with it. You don't need to take the scenic tour.

Life experience is best, you've got that, so let it shape the sermon.

Passion! The best worded prose has been destroyed by being delivered in a deadpan. While the less beautiful writing when delivered with the fire of the Spirit will light hearts.

Kirk is right, attention spans are pretty short. I aim for about 1,600-1,800 words if I'm writing a manuscript sermon as a good estimate. Less is fine, longer and you better have a REALLY good excuse. ;)

5/03/2009 10:32 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks, Kirk. Now that the reality is sinking in, I find myself getting more excited than anxious.

You're more optimistic than I. I'm assuming the sermon has to be less than 15 minutes.

In my parish, our rector is a truly awesome preacher. I could listen to her go on and on and on. But I observe that people get itchy by 15 mins. .... I know I don't have her gifts. So I'm shooting for something much shorter.

I've always had this going for me in my professional talks: I'm funny. People seem to enjoy my presentations and find them engaging. ... We shall see whether I'm able to apply that to sermonizing. I sure hope so!

5/03/2009 11:13 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

OKOKOK, Josephine. You and Kirk have both hammered home the need for brevity. I get that. I know that.

Here, if a sermon went 15 mins., the rector would probably be tarred and feathered. I'm used to that the absolutely outer limit.

I am amused that the first 2 comments here have related to verbosity. Must have to do with the length of my blog posts. LOL!

Josephine, you talk about passion. My concern is that I may have too much passion. The Lui relationship has been so powerful to me, that I think the challenging will be moderating that passion. For the sake of the parish. And so that I don't risk "losing it" in the midst of the sermon. That's probably part of my greatest fear: that I will be too passionate. Gotta find a good middle ground.

Thanks for the tip about word-length, Josephine. Having never written a presentation before, I had no idea how words translated into time.

Thanks y'all. Keep 'em coming.

5/03/2009 11:19 PM  
Blogger joan said...

This is not surprising news, Lisa. And, no coincidence that you will preach on Pentecost, as on that day we are invited to recognize our own gifts for ministry! My suggestion is to spend time in prayer and reflection and the Holy Spirit will do her part! You have the experiences and the insights and the voice.

5/04/2009 11:37 AM  
Blogger --Susan said...

Lisa,
How exciting!
I'm sure the Spirit will visit you well, handmaiden!

I guess I must be an outlier: I like a good, meaty sermon. My dad was a baptist preacher. You could almost set a twenty minute timer to his sermons. Rarely did he go much over or under. As I consider it now sitting here at my work computer sucking up tax payers' dollars, I have no idea how long my pastor preaches. What I know is that when someone else preaches in her stead with a little "devotional", I leave church unfulfilled.

I love to hear the Word expounded--especially by someone who loves the Word!

You'll be great. No doubt. Say what the Spirit lays on your heart and then shut up.

--Susan

5/04/2009 3:56 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Joan, I am deeply grateful for your encouragement.

You said: "... on that day we are invited to recognize our own gifts for ministry."
I didn't know that. ... But I do see it as a day on which I can test the "nudging" I have felt.

I hope I can do justice to the people of Lui and that the Spirit will give me the words to say to that parish.

5/04/2009 9:50 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Love your comment, Susan. "Say what the Spirit lays on your heart, then sit down and shut up" should be emblazoned over my desk. Thank you!

5/04/2009 9:51 PM  
Blogger it's margaret said...

Wow --how wonderful!

Where you feel the nudge, --that's what you preach about. Speak from your heart. Practice out loud --in the pulpit.

Trust yourself. Have fun!

many blessings.

5/05/2009 5:39 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

That's a great tip, Margaret, and had not occurred to me. I imagined preaching to the cats here at home. [They already speak in tongues. ;-) ] But I like your idea of practicing in a pulpit. I'll be preaching an hour away from here, but still ...

5/05/2009 8:57 PM  
Blogger Joanna Depue said...

Lisa - I'm certain the Spirit will use you, your gifts of the spoken and written word to best advantage. As to a sermon - my experience has been that most folks try to cram way too many takes or ideas into one sermon. There is no doubt in the minds of any of us bloggers that you will be preaching again - and perhaps regularly. So - have one focal point and elaborate, leaving room in your hearers imagination for their own experience. Speak truth from the heart. No one can ask or do more or better than that! clarity and a

5/07/2009 3:17 PM  

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