Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Sermon - Feast of the Presentation, transferred, February 5, 2006, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Evanston, IL.
And thanks for the comments on the previous post. That's good stuff. I'll be sure to tell my mother hello from Mr. Beal. To answer your questions Beal, no I do not think that mining previous sermons for nuggets of wisdom is a bad idea, nor is re-telling an anecdotal story as a way to get into a sermon, so long as they do justice to the intersections of congregation, text, time, location, and circumstances as Baruch Grazer suggests. Fr. Bob's stories about the Mullah Nazrudin preached well in a variety of circumstances and he always went on from there to say something new to that congregation at that time. His life circumstances also really influenced his preaching more than any other preacher I've heard and it worked for him. His constant preaching about his father's process of dying and eventual death, and the emotion Bob felt about that in the aftermath was some of the most heartfelt preaching I've ever heard, and it carried over from week to week to week. Likewise for his sister's death. Every year at the anniversary of her death, he preached about her, but it was never the same sermon, just the same event. It would have been inauthentic of him to try and do otherwise in either circumstance. I don't feel inclined to re-invent the wheen each time, but I do feel inclined to preach an authentic, new sermon. And certainly old, but relevant notes are always helpful. Micah also mentions something useful, sermons can and do rot, as in the example he provided. Can't think of an example of when that's happened to me yet, but I've no doubt it will. I've only preached a few sermons, relatively speaking, and Micah is the world's greatest Anglican preacher. Seriously, you type that into Google or something and his blog comes up first. Or at least it used to.
Interesting...I was going to ask the same question Beal asked, and I'm glad you addressed it.
I gots a follow-up question, though...are there sermons that you can re-preach nearly whole after a sufficient period of time, given that the congregation (and you yourself) have changed over that period?
As an example, my minister used to (and I think he still does, but I could be wrong) do a series of ten or twelve sermons that were geared mainly toward children (in addition to any short 'kids in the church' type discussion). Seems like he'd do them every 5-7 years or so...probably closer to 7 (I can't remember). I'd imagine he updated what he said every time he went through the series, but in that case, given the target audience, would the time difference be enough to class them as new (or, appropriate)?
For me, these were special sermons, and I always enjoyed it (and payed attention) when he brought out his posterboards.
Great analogy. I would propose that the same thing applies to teaching of any sort. To be a good teacher, all of these things (time, audience, environment) must be taken into account when planning your classes (or as you're guiding them dynamically).
The other positive impact of such a policy is that it gives the pastor/teacher more exposure to the material! By re-using a sermon, you're denying yourself new spiritual growth that comes from the synthesis.
Hudd- It sounds like what you're talking about is what we in the biz call "topical sermons". These are sermons that don't necessarily follow any particular lections, but can follow almost all of them and are in a series on a given topic such as "Death & Dying", "Tithing" (not that those two should be placed next to one another), "Youth in the Church", or "Theologies of the Afterlife". These sorts of topical sermons, while they exist in the Episcopal church, are probably more prevalent in other, more preaching based, Protestant denominations who aren't as strictly wedded to a lectionary as Episcoplians are. That said, I do not think it is a bad idea so long as the sermons are updated. The time difference alone would not classify them as new I wouldn't think, so I'd want to be careful I was doing justice to my current congregation. The thing you want to stay away from is that which is documented in the first episode of the BBC series, "The Vicar of Dibley", in which all the congregants gather round to toast the memory of the dear recently departed Vicar, and the memory of his Christmas Sermon, which they all have memorized.
Mason- You commented?!?! Are you feeling alright? In any event, good to see you here my friend. Yes, I think what I've been talking about can apply to any person who is tasked with addressing the public on any sort of regular basis, teachers and preachers alike (and there is some overlap as you well know). And I really like what you said secondly, about re-encountering the material. It does allow a deeper knowledge and a deeper relationship to be forged, particularly with Scripture, as we do call it the Living Word of God. I also think many preachers could benefit from hearing the last sentence you wrote. My own priest says she has sometimes reused sermons in dire situations when preparing a new one just wasn't possible, but she also admits that the second time round they've tanked.