Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Conundrum of Preaching

Preaching is a mystery to me.  I've been blessed to find that I actually enjoy it.  In the beginning it was terrifying, truly terrifying to me.  Now that I've come to enjoy it I've discovered (developed?) a bit of a conundrum.

It seems that those days in which I leave the pulpit feeling distraught and frustrated because I had been vague, speaking in platitudes, missing the meat of what I needed to say...those days are ones in which folks tell me after the service it was nice and they enjoyed it and even a few folks will come up days later and tell me how much that sermon  meant to them or spoke to them.  Then there are days like today in which I felt as those I spoke the Gospel, that the Holy Spirit was with me and I came close to saying what was placed before me and everyone in the church looks at me with dead eyes, Joel says I couldn't follow you, I couldn't pay attention and yet I feel like I've actually preached or said something meaningful.

On one hand I am grateful that I never know how my sermons are received, that their reception rarely matching my experience of the delivery because then I am reminded that preaching is not about me.  Not really, that it is about God using that space, that time for more than what I can know or understand. 

That said, it still leaves me confused and unsure of what I should do.  How am I to preach?  Am I to preach the stuff that makes people feel good and keeps them pleased or do I preach in the ways that feel like good preaching to me?  I preach from my heart either/both ways and I can't say they are opposite things.  But some days it feels as though there are these 2 different ways/approaches to preaching and that neither are fully satisfying, at least neither satisfy both parties.

Please drop me a line in the comments or via email because I'm very interested in hearing others' thoughts and experiences about preaching.  Perhaps this is a stage of growth and as I develop further they will come closer to being one and the same.


God_Guurrlll said...

You've heard that a prophet is not accepted in his/her hometown, the same goes for prophetic preachers.

I think that some lay folks have a different vision of the church than those of us who are seminary trained. I see the church as the hands feet and voice of God in bringing about the reign of God on earth. However a goodly amount of folk in the congregation believe the church is a place for them to find comfort and feel good.

It's hard to preach within this tension. I try to do both/and. I give the assurance of God's love and call folks to go out into the world and do God's work.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it falls flat.

revkjarla said...

wise words from GG...
When I am preaching I try to mix prophetic and there is challenge and comfort. Not always possible, though.
it's all a growing thing, I rock, though, I KNOW IT!!!

Songbird said...

I think we have to take the long view as we live in the tension of being pastoral and prophetic. It's got some parallels in parenting, don't you think? We want our kids to feel loved and confident, then we send them out into the world to love others.

Pastor Julia said...

I posted a link to your post and my own comments at my place, but I wanted to say something here. I think preaching is one of the hardest things we do and I think we're called to wrestle with it. I don't mean that to sound platitudinous, but if people always walked out, saying, "What a great sermon"- you might eventually start to think it's you and forget the work of the Spirit. Even on the flattest of Sundays, I have to trust that something touched someone somehow and I hope I didn't get in the way. I think a little challenge goes a long way and I try to end on a note of grace. Otherwise, I try to hit on what I think the needs are of the congregation- both to hear and to be confronted with (pastorally). It sounds like you do a great job, through how seriously you take this, and I believe God is doing more work through your words than you know or suspect.