Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Paean to the Preacherly

I know that those of you who preach sometimes wonder, as you're looking out at your hearers -- perhaps to find pairs of eyes glazed over in a thousand-mile stare, or gazing longingly out a window, or looking into a purse, searching for Altoids -- if anyone is actually listening to your sermon; if what you're saying matters, or if you may as well be standing in your shower, preaching to the grout.

I'm here to tell you: Yes, it does.

The winter holidays are always something of an ordeal for me, because the cold and dark make me sad and because I always wind up having to negotiate the household celebrations with my mother. I don't know where I ever got the idea that two people living together -- especially a mother and adult daughter -- can seamlessly mesh their holiday preferences and expectations with no frayed ends, but it seems every year I endulge this fantasy, and every year I'm disappointed, and wind up grumpier than I would be anyway. Yes, I know the definition of mental illness as engaging in the same behavior over and over, expecting a different result; what can I say -- I'm a slow learner.

Today as I was pondering the days to come, a phrase suddenly popped into my head: situations and circumstances. It was something my pastor had said in passing during his sermon on Sunday. I can't even remember the larger context; I'm not sure he could either, since he'd just gotten home from a trans-Atlantic flight and sounded more than a little jet-lagged, and my own brain had pretty much turned to tapioca after an intense out-of-town lay ministry training day. But it was something about how, when we take Jesus seriously about living our faith out into the world, we are able to transcend and transform our situations and circumstances. I think that's what he said; all I remember are those three words.

And when I remembered, I had an "aha" experience; an insight into how I might better, and more prayerfully, navigate through my particular situation this year. It was uncanny. Just three words.

So for those of you who proclaim the Word: What you say does matter...perhaps not always in the way you expect it to, but in a way that results in a Godward outcome for someone else. Hey -- thanks.


Sue said...

I can't decide if this is inspiring or terrifying, but either way, thanks! :)

Emily said...

Thanks for the reassurance!

My experience is that people are very hopeful for some Good News, and are glazed over because they've not heard it for years.

Just my humble opinion.

Tom in Ontario said...

Thanks Chik.

You reminded me of something I recently read,

"Preaching is always pastoral. Wise preaching will know that in the season when church declares "Joy," the world declares "Happiness," and the whole culture shouts "Family!" some will be joyless, some will be sad, and some--not necessarily the same people--will be alone.

"Incarnation does not depend on the Christmas buzz for its power. Joy to the world is sometimes joy despite the world. Our preaching will [should] acknowledge that."