SERMON-WRITING COMMITTEE?
2015-07-20 by David von Schlichten

Sermon-writing is generally a solitary activity. The pastor may consult a website, book or pericope group (and God, of course), but she writes the sermon largely by herself.

What if pastors wrote sermons in consultation with a lay committee at their congregation? The pastor would still have the final say, but the committee could offer suggetions and even feedback on an early draft. Would such sermons be more effective because they would be influenced more by members of the congregation, for whom the sermon is intended?

Of course, who would serve on this commitee would be a delicate matter, and it would have to be clear that the pastor gets the final say with a sermon. The committee would merely be advisory and supportive and not domineering or overbearing when it came to what the pastor should preach on or how.  

I suggest this idea because I wonder if pastors are sometimes out of touch with their congregation, and I wonder if congregations would listen more carefully if they had more of a role in helping to fashion the sermon.

There would be serious logistics to work out, but perhaps this approach would be fruitful.

Actually, I'm guessing that some congregations already do this. If you know of such endeavors, please share your stories with us.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





BEWARE OF GLITTERING GENERALITIES AND THE PREACHER'S DRONE
2015-06-18 by David von Schlichten

Postbellum author and feminist Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (1844-1911) warned against "glittering generalities" in sermons, that is, homiletic language that sounds lovely and is theologically orthodox but that has little consequence for listeners. The language floats by people, they think it is nice and proper, and then they forget it by the time they make it to the parking lot. 

I encounter such language all the time in sermons, both my own and those of other preachers. Sure, it sounds "right," but it leaves no impact. We might as well say nothing.

How do we avoid glittering generalities?

1. Be specific. Even if you don't have a story that illustrates a point, you can still use concrete images to take the general and make it relevant to your hearers. 

Along these lines, get people to think about what God and the Good News look like at work, at the store, at school, at the bank, at home. Connect the dots. 

2. Incorporate the senses, especially smell, in your writing. Smells stick with people.

3. Don't just use buzz words. Define them. "Faith," "Love," "Grace." What do these words really mean?

4. Give hearers homework. Send them out with something to do this coming week, something specific.

5. Watch out for the preacher's drone. I hate it! Preachers get into this kind of rhythm that sounds like apathy, like, "I've said this a million times, so you don't really need to listen." Try taping yourself and then listening for the drone. It's deadly!

The drone usually features a significant drop in the voice at the end of each sentence or clause. "We undergo many tribulations [drop], but our Lord Jesus Christ died for us [drop]. By his precious blood we are healed [drop]." Drives me nuts! 

Don't preach like a stereotype. Preach like a person talking, because that's what you are. You are more than that, of course, but you are not a caricature, so don't act like one. This isn't a movie. This is life.

What suggestions do you have for improving preaching?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

 

 





Easter (Resurrection Day)
2015-03-09 by David von Schlichten

1. Mary recognizes the Risen Christ once he calls her by name. What does that mean, and how does it apply to us?

2. How do we live the Resurrection?

3. Where do you encounter life emerging out of death?

4. What does it mean that the original response to the Resurrection was fear?

5. What's up with that whole race to the tomb between Peter and the Beloved Disciple? Are we the Beloved Disciple? 

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





SERMON IDEAS ON THE SEVEN LAST WORDS
2015-03-09 by David von Schlichten

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." 

Christ forgives his executioners, even though they have not repented. Repentance is not a prerequisite for forgiveness.

"Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."

While God calls us to baptism, it is apparently not a requirement for eternal life. Is it?

"Woman, behold your son . . . Behold your mother."

If we are the Beloved Disciple, then Christ is entrusting Mary to us. What does that mean?

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Christ is using Scripture to express his sorrow. How can we use Scripture to give voice to our sorrow?

"I thirst."

Christ is the King who demands a drink from his throne, the Cross.

"It has been accomplished."

Christ's death is God achieving salvation for us. Passive voice. Perfect tense.

"Into your hands, I commit my spirit." 

How do we commit our spirits to God?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





LENT
2015-02-22 by David von Schlichten

Here are some ideas I have:

1. Seven deadly sins that most people don't think of (examples: jingoism, self-abnegation, proof-texting the Bible, workaholism, worship of sports);

2. How to cross-shape your life;

3. How do we cope with failure in the Church. 

What ideas do you have?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





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