04 April 2009

A sunny cold day here in the land of the Great Lakes.

I am embarking on the single most dangerous change in my habits since smoking cigarettes in the 1970s. Instead of writing out my sermons I am using scant notes. For the last few weeks I have done this more and more, and last week in particular I was reduced to the fewest by a crowded week that left me mere hours on Saturday.

I am doing this because it seems to force me to preach in a more immediate way. No one has ever accused me of being dull or cold in the pulpit, by the way. But when I told my folks that I have a ‘pentecostal’ streak I knew that meant I would have to let it show. So I am.

And is it scary. My tradition, my training, my values, all esteem the literary sermon – that carefully thought and linguistically taut oeuvre which not only preaches to those physically before you but to posterity. I admire those find essays, crave to create them, and yet also know they are are not what I am destined to do best.

The arrogance of the liberal preacher is to believe he or she creates the sermon. We may write it down, revise it, print it, but the sermon exists only at the moment it is spoken and heard. The sermon exists in the air, as it were, in the space between preacher and congregation. That’s why I so appreciate the tradition of speaking back to the preacher in some traditions, reminding them both that it is a spiritual dialogue not a soliloquy.

More easily said than done, especially in the dignified realms I have inhabited all my professional life. And yet, I am convinced pentecostally open worship is essential to liberating the liberal church. Not to become like others who do it, but to become what it must become if it is to live out its mission.

Oops, now I am preaching tomorrow’s message. I had better stop now and get back to the scary work of preparing my soul more than my text. And yes, that means you have to be there to find out what I am going to say. Heck even I won’t know for sure until then.

Sort of a Forrest Gump theory of worship isn’t it – you never know what you’re gonna get.

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