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When sermons take on lives of their own

When sermons take on lives of their own

Michael R. Duncan, on Faith Lab, reflects on preaching and how what is heard is not always what is said. Also how what is written by the preacher often ends up having little relationship to what is preached.

“Your sermon from two weeks ago really hit home for me.” Hers was the kind of response that every preacher wants to hear. Being the attentive and alert preacher that I am, I responded, “Tell me about that.”

When she finished telling me how my sermon had “hit home,” I wasn’t certain that she heard the sermon I preached. Alas, this is not a new experience—for me or for any other preacher who has dared to hear how his/her sermon was heard.

It seems to me that the sermon is more than the meeting of the preacher and the congregation. In the mix, from the preparation to the delivery to the hearing, the Spirit is also at work. Given that we preachers fail often at this all-important task, we should be grateful for the role the Spirit plays.

For a long time, I’ve known the role the Spirit plays in both my preparation and my delivery. How many times have I faced yet another Sunday coming, have studied the text, and wondered what in the world I was going to say. More often than not as I have given myself to the task, the sermon has emerged from the chaos of my mind.

Thankfully, the Spirit doesn’t take a holiday once I’ve typed the final word of my manuscript. … Stepping to the pulpit to deliver the sermon over which I’ve labored, I’m often surprised by what ends up being the sermon delivered. On many Sundays were my congregants to have a copy of the manuscript, they would be surprised by what they hear. The sermon delivered is often not the one written. It has taken a while for this preacher to trust the ongoing guidance of the Spirit; but to the extent he does, his preaching has improved.

What is your preaching experience? Does this happen to you?


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Um, can laypeople play? With our listening experiences?

At an ecumenical workshop, I once heard an AWESOME homily/meditation on “The Road to Emmaus” (we weren’t in the Easter season at the time: perhaps another reason it stuck w/ me).

About 5 or so years later, I happened to encounter the homilist again. I gave her quite specific details I’d remembered, but said I’d love to have an actual copy of it.

Of course: she had NO idea of what I was talking about. No memory of it AT ALL. (She remembered she’d been at the conference, but nothing more)

Such is life. I still have fond memories of it.

JC Fisher

New thought: maybe I should Google it (the specific parts I remember). Maybe she came across it, and posted it later . . . or maybe it wasn’t (in toto or in part) original to her, and that was another reason she didn’t remember it as hers. Hmmm…

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