Sunday, May 30, 2010

Blog Less, Study More

Dear friends –

It has generally been my habit to spend Saturday catching up on some of your blogs. But I unplugged Friday night and didn’t turn on the laptop Saturday until very, very late. I hope to stay mostly unplugged through most of this long weekend.

And why?

Because – God help me! – I am preparing to preach.

Some of you will recall that I preached in another parish of our diocese last year. I enjoyed that experience. I enjoyed the experience of study and prayer and preparation. I mostly enjoyed the writing… even though I found it gut-wrenching and had my moments of panic in the last few days/hours. And I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being in the pulpit and preaching after all that preparation.

After that experience, I began to explore with my priest the possibility of preaching here at home. She is letting many different people with different perspectives preach. I expected she would be open to including me in the rota. The question was whether I was ready. It took me a year to get to "yes."

Being who and what I am, I was very hesitant to preach in my own parish. I am vividly mindful that a few people walked out on the Sunday when the Bishop announced his support for LGBTs in the diocese. I am aware that some will see my presence in the pulpit as something akin to the Abomination of Desolation. But I've remained in the church (and managed not to levitate off my pew) when one of our fundamentalist members preached. I hope he and the other "conservatives" can extend the same courtesy to me. As a parishioner and a LEM, I have experienced the grace of being at the altar with those few in the parish who adamantly reject who and what I am. I hope that, when I preach next Sunday, they will hear the voice of a sister in Christ who is just as "orthodox" as they are. ... But I really hate it that I even have to think about and be aware of these "political" issues. I hope those issues will disappear soon.

To tell the truth: I probably would have been timid even aside from the questions of who and what I am … for preaching to one’s one community of faith seems especially daunting to me. I know some of you have done it, and you priest friends do it regularly.

Well ... I finally decided I was ready and willing. I met with my rector in early May, and we settled on a date: June 6.

Only when I got home that evening, after setting the date, did I see the lectionary for June 6. And it’s a barn-burner. [We're on Track 2, BTW.] What great stories and readings!

Over this month, I’ve been reading the stories and letting them wash over me … trying to discern themes and patterns and threads.

Today, I delved into the serious commentary and study phase.

Later this weekend, I will begin writing.

So I will try to disengage for a few days from the blogosphere and keep my focus more theological.

If any of you want to point me toward online resources for Pentecost 2 (Proper 5), I’ll be grateful. I would be happy to talk here about the readings for next Sunday … if any of you seem so inclined. I have some hypotheses and themes … but also many questions. If you’re preaching next Sunday and want to chat, please chime in. I would welcome the dialogue.

BTW, having the grace of a month to prepare, I'm reminded again: I just don't know how you priests do it ... preparing a sermon every week! I am in awe.

15 Comments:

Blogger Ann said...

Congratulations- exciting times. Preaching every week is easier, IMO, as I get into a routine of reading the lessons on Sunday afternoon - letting them cook for a few days to see what catches my attention. A time for study of the setting and times of the text. And some free writing til something emerges - it is a time of prayer and connection for me too. I am preaching today - my sermon notes for Trinity Sunday are at my blog. It is harder to focus when it is not my weekly habit

5/30/2010 7:44 AM  
Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

Awesome, Lisa. Prayers for the writing and for the preaching, too.

5/30/2010 2:55 PM  
Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...

Woo Hoo! I can't wait to hear how it goes for you. These are powerful readings.

I have found www.textweek.com very useful in terms of seeing places other people have gone with it, despite the fact my message usually goes someplace else. It sparks my mind.

While you are at it, download the diocesan requirements for a lay preacher license. You could do this. Take it from One Who Has Been There.

Wouldn't it be cool if we had enough interest in the diocese to have a lay preaching festival? Think of all the good messages we would all hear.

You have a marvelous faith story worth sharing. I look forward to you sharing it!

5/30/2010 2:58 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks, Ann. Yes, I am pleased, and it is exciting.

The process you described is essentially what I’ve been doing. I spent the past 3 weeks just reading and re-reading the texts, trying to listen deeply. Yesterday, I started the “study” part, using the New Interpreter’s Bible, which I find helpful as a one-stop shopping source for history, context, and some springboards for reflection.

Before I read the NIB texts yesterday, I thought I had a pretty clear and simple theme. But now it’s even richer … and even more diverse! And, thus, a bit more challenging to narrow my focus.

What you said about the routine for a weekly preacher makes sense. A dear friend of mine is on the Long Path toward ordination, and he preaches about once a month. I have walked the journey with him, and I sense that he feels what I’m feeling: that it has to be a BRILLIANT sermon. Maybe there is some grace in those who preach weekly, since it’s “just” [and I don’t mean to use that term flippantly] a weekly conversation, rather than an occasional cameo. … Food for thought there – particularly as a reminder that it’s not about me!

5/30/2010 3:44 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks, Grandmère. Please do keep the prayers coming. I believe you have a direct link to God’s ear.

5/30/2010 3:48 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks, KirkE, for your jubilant response. And I agree: I drew some great readings. They seemed rich and pregnant with sermon-fodder when I was reading them alone; now that I’ve read some commentaries, they’re even more so.

Oh! Thanks for the reminder of the TextWeek site. I had forgotten that one.

Oh, you and Mark! Ever pressing me toward preaching and priesting. I do recall that you are on track to be licensed as a lay preacher. Was that last sermon the final hurdle, or do you have to do one more? I can’t recall. I hope to get to Kirksville one of these days to hear you preach. I would love it.

Yikes! A lay preaching festival sounds pretty darn scary to me. Or maybe not. If we had it in StL, I could actually let loose and let ‘er rip … which I can’t imagine doing here in Conservative Land. {sigh}

I’m pretty jazzed about what I hear in the readings for next Sunday. I just hope I can do justice to the readings and my insights in the sermon as written and preached. I’m sure you understand that.

5/30/2010 3:51 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Let me provide two addenda to this post.

First, you remember the man (and his family) whom I feared most, who might view me as the Great Abomination of Desolation when I moved into the pulpit next Sunday? I learned today that they will be out of town. Mind you, I know I shouldn’t care about how any particular person(s) might react to a sermon. But since that family sits on the front row, Gospel side, right in front of the pulpit, it would have been hard not to note their reactions. And I had a nightmare fear that he or they might just parade out of the nave when I rose to preach. I’m glad that particular fear/distraction will be absent on this first time when I preach in my own parish.

Second, I neglected to mention one other important thing about next Sunday. After I preach, we will be baptizing two people. One is a newborn baby. The other is a 13-year-old young woman who has been essentially unchurched until she and her grandmother appeared in our church on Ash Wednesday … and who have been utterly faithful in attendance ever since then. I have befriended them, and was honored to be allowed to preach on that Sunday.

One of the things I love best about Elizabeth Kaeton’s blog are her baptismal sermons. I do hope I can work into mine some particular words for those about to be baptized. As I'm hearing them, the readings do seem to lend themselves to that.

Please keep me in your prayers ... that I may preach the sermon that our parish -- and especially our baptismal candidates -- need to hear.

5/30/2010 4:06 PM  
Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...

I got my "papers" a couple weeks ago in church. I iz a "board certified lay preacher" now. LOL

I think a lay preaching festival in STL would be a blast. SRSLY. In my mind, preaching is just "sharing our faith stories in a way that everyone goes home with something." It was a "foreign" experience for me b/c my work world is "just the facts, ma'am." But even though you do the scholarship for preaching, there is a piece from the heart, even though you really aren't couching it that way. When I hear these stories in the context of the reading, I come to realize that the story of where each of us has felt joy, pain, marginalization, exodus, repentance, exile, restoration--they are just not all that far apart no matter what our background, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. We are all just trying to be like Jesus as best we can, and I hear echoes of my own journey in the stories of others.

You have to do four sermons for the lay preaching license. One has to be in a "not exactly church" locale. I did my "outside of church" one at a local nursing home. That was the hardest one in some ways, but the easiest in others. Hard because you have many denominational backgrounds, and many levels of cognition. Easy b/c they were just so glad to have me come visit, they really didn't care about the preaching part. LOL

I am not going to pick on you like Mark about the Holy Orders (yet). Right now I'm just going to say, you would be a fine example of a lay preacher in this diocese if you put your mind to it, and let it go at that!

5/30/2010 4:16 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

KirkE, I always suspected you were certifiable. {Just kidding! & a VBG!} But seriously: I am glad you have been licensed now. Maybe you could come down here one Sunday. Shariya+ loves to welcome guest preachers!

Amen to what you’re saying, KirkE. In fact, the theme I’m hearing in next Sunday’s readings are the ways we are yanked back and forth … from scarcity to plenty, from death to life, from fear to praise, from stranger to ally, from weeping to joy … and back again. It seems to me, that is the human condition. I think our Puritan forebears and the “Prosperity Gospel” folks are just fooling themselves. To be human, it seems to me, is to suffer those back-and-forth yanks. And it could drive us mad -- or at least it could drive me mad -- were it not for the sure and certain faith that God is there in the midst of it all. … Or at least that’s what I think I’m going to be preaching next week.

I’m reminded of a line in Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy, where one character says, “Save us, Lord, poor sons o’ bitches.” Maybe not exactly liturgical. But a fervent and true prayer, it seems to me.

Yikes! re: your “not exactly church” preaching obligation. I can imagine that nursing home may have indeed been difficult. It breaks my heart to recognize how many folks there are essentially bereft of family and friends. I think I could preach well there … but also that it would break my heart.

Thank you, KirkE, for the encouragement. To be honest, I must confess: I think I do want to be a preacher. But I’m going to have to get a lot better at it, and am going to have to develop a better system for preparation … and a lot more humility.

5/30/2010 4:57 PM  
Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...

Hey, I'd be glad to do a guest gig at Grace. I am being the "Rent-an-Episcopalian" for 1st Presby in Kirksville for two weeks in June. That's a nerve wracking experience--someone with a "Lutherojudeopalian" theology out among the Calvinists! LOL I keep worrying I'm too incarnational for them but rely on my grace-based Lutheran roots to save the day.

I like your thoughts so far. Keep imagining. Something good is bound to bubble up.

I know you've been searching for what your "call" is to be--this could be part of it. Your library science background makes you a good Scripture scholar. Your life experience makes a good faith story. It's a good mix.

5/30/2010 6:08 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Hmmm … So how do I encourage my rector to invite you? I don’t know the protocol.

So you’ll be preaching among the Presbyterians? Well, good for them, but sad for us. We gotta get you in more Episcopal congregations!

Thanks for the feedback.

Just to be clear: I do not have a “library science background.” I grew up among librarians and archivists as a preservation administrator, and as one who created the preservation movement in the Southeast U.S. I expect Grandmere Mimi was part of that.

If anything, it was my graduate studies in English that makes me a careful reader of all texts, including Scripture.

You wrote: “Your life experience makes a good faith story. It's a good mix.“ I’m reminded of that line in A Few Good Men: “The truth?? You can’t handle the truth!”

My own faith journey has been so weird and circuitous that I doubt anyone would want to hear it.

5/30/2010 6:39 PM  
Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...

Don't bet on it. We ALL say, "My faith journey was so weird, no one wants to hear it."

I had to write my "spiritual autobiography" for EfM class. I looked at it and said, "OMG, this is not exactly a poster child look at ANY kind of ministry, lay or ordained!"

5/30/2010 7:20 PM  
Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

I believe you have a direct link to God’s ear.

Sometimes my prayers seem to go into God's bad ear. Howevah! I shall continue to pray, Lisa.

5/30/2010 7:23 PM  
Blogger Staying Awake in Missouri said...

Lisa,

I can hear you preaching! I hope there will be a post of the manuscript. God's blessing on the process.

Carrol

5/31/2010 2:05 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

{big chuckle} to KirkE. I suppose you're right. Most of us have had pretty strange faith journeys.

Mimi, you are very dear. Thank you.

Carrol, thanks for dropping in ... and for the encouragement. I really love doing lectures and workshops in my day job. I know I'll enjoy preaching ... as long as I am well prepared. The challenge for me is this "written sermon" thing. I've done literally hundreds of lectures and workshops (ranging from an hour to days), and I only speak from notes, relying on my subject knowledge and (yes) inspiration along the way. Writing a sermon feels much harder, but I also know it is essential for me -- so that I stay focused and within a reasonable length.

Yes, I will post it here afterwards, unless it's a complete embarrassment. You may have noticed, up in the 4th paragraph of my post, the link to the sermon I preached up in Mexico last Pentecost.

I have an appointment with my priest tomorrow after work, to talk out some of my thoughts.

Unfortunately, today has not been productive. I had hoped to have a draft -- or at least a detailed outline -- finished by now. But I haven't even set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). I think I'm having a bit of a panic attack -- just like last year. But, fortunately, I still have 6 days. Well, 6 evenings actually, since work consumes the days. :(

5/31/2010 6:49 PM  

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