Thursday, October 05, 2006

Preaching with the Holy Spirit

Browsing around to try to get a start on the sermon for next week, I ran across this ">article on pastoral plagiarism.

What the original writer seems to be saying is that we cannot trust to the Spirit, that we have to have “the best sermon” at all costs, and the end justifies the means.

Well, that brings up some questions for me.

  • How do we decide who “the best” preachers are? Even those we often think of as great speakers and preachers had off days; are all their sermons to be considered equally “great?” And is it really a good idea to elevate these people to the level of the only ones who can preach?
  • What does this say about our own arrogance? Do we really think that people only hear what we say, or do we believe that the Spirit speaks through us, in spite of us?
  • Preaching, I discovered before I even left seminary (thank you, Jesus!), is not always or even usually about educating the congregation, but about the preacher learning something from the passage in question. If we only use what others have said, we lose that gift of study and learning the Words of God. Where does that leave us?

I’m with Ray Van Neste on this one—we preachers have to trust in the Spirit to convey the truth of God to the congregation, over time, in spite of ourselves. If we use another person’s words, we are not true to ourselves, or to the gospel. Does it really make sense to preach a sermon written for, say, a rural majority-white congregation in Ohio in 1990 to an urban congregation of mostly African-Americans in Philadelphia in 2006? Of course not! And yet that’s what Steve Sjogren seems to be saying.

This is troubling. Are we so afraid of not “hitting a home run” that we cannot trust the Spirit? Are we really putting things of the world (a “successful” sermon, whatever that is) ahead of divine inspiration?

I thank God for the example of the friends and blogpals on this ring, who every week gather at a virtual sermon-writing party, difficult and stressful as it is, to pull out another sermon from our hearts and spirits, praying for the Spirit to breathe life into it, that it may rise up and show God to our congregations.

In the immortal words of Songbird and the other 11th Hour hosts:

  • The Holy Spirit has your back.
  • If you’ve got a dog, walk it proud.


Sue said...


The Vicar of Hogsmeade said...

That whole "home run" sermon thing is just too much. Sometimes I think the standard is set by the preachers on TV. But they don't typically do hospital calls or funerals and they have a huge staff. So the standard related to the TV is more about public speaking than connecting with God in ways that change our lives.

SingingOwl said...

YES. I think we do get compared to the "famous" preachers.

Thanks, RB, for posting this. I just read it today (Sat. the 14th) and am feeling particularly uninspired and hopeless about a sermon.

Can I trust the Holy Spirit?

I'm gonna go pray...but thanks again.

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