On a good day

I hope occasionally when asked for a report of your day in the ministry you will be able to say, “I think I wrote one good sentence in the sermon for Sunday.” The sermon is at the heart of our ability to speak as well as sustain speaking Christian. The sermon is not your reflections on how to negotiate life. The sermon rather is our fundamental speech act as Christians through which we learn the grammar of the faith. As my colleague Richard Lischer puts it in his book, The End of Words, “the preacher’s job . . . is to do nothing less than shape the language of the sermon to a living reality among the people of God—to make it conform to Jesus. The sermon, in fact, is Jesus trying to speak once again in his own community.”

If you haven’t had time yet to read through Hauerwas’ great commencement address he gave at Eastern Mennonite I encourage you do so now. The reason this line stuck out to me is that when I read the address for a second time I had just spend about 4 hours fiddling with a sermon looking for something to crack into proclamation. I had done all my research, had practically written the whole thing, but couldn’t really find anything that I really wanted to say in the sermon. Sermon writing for me often functions like a puzzle with one really odd piece. It’s not hard to find all the pieces, look up sources, even really write it, but I will spend hours thinking about the one sentence that I really want to bring to the congregation on Sunday and for some reason it took longer than usual to find it this past week. So reading this reading right after I finished I felt like I could say to Kelli when she asked what I did all that time at the kitchen table was that, “I think I wrote one good sentence in the sermon for Sunday.”