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- Page 5

  • Oh yes....!

    "Imposter Syndrome" is pretty much endemic among ministers, teachers and indeed anyone who is any good at what they do.... the fear of being 'found out as a fraud', the sense of lack or worth, that if 'they' only knew they'd be endlessly disappointed in me...

    Well, this from Archdruid Eileen is bang on the money.  Enjoy"

  • Receiving (1)...

    I've just spent a quiet hour listening to the podcast of last week's service, and really appreciated it greatly.  From the call to worship, to the music, to the sermon and the prayers, it was almost as good as being there, and touching to be mentioned and prayed for intelligently.

    I am really proud of the cover preacher, L, for taking on the challenge of focussing on a "text of terror" from the Old Testament and diligently seeking out hope from within it, when the easy option would have been to ignore that passage and preach something from the New Testament instead.

    It reminded me a bit of the time I preached on the "Slaughter of the Innocents" as a student - a terrible New Testament passage - that I used to explore some thoughts around what we might do with the passages that disturb our ease or that we'd rather simply excise.  Avoidance and evasion are tempting; engagement is challenging and important.

    The sermon ranged quite widely, perhaps more widely than I would do nowadays, with lots of useful material to expand on the context, exploring ideas such as questioning or arguing with God (very important to recognise); the nature of God who seems capable of wrath yet whose desire is that none be loss; the distortion of sacrifice and so on. 

    For me the little nugget to ponder further was the idea that God would spare Sodom and Gomorra if as few as ten righteous people could be found (Abraham stopped at ten, but maybe the limit was actually one...).  The preacher then invited to imagine that the people in that place at that time were the only 'righteous' in the whole of Glasgow, and that for their sake, God would spare the entire city irrespective of what was going on.  Wow!  That's a massive, mind-blowing idea.

    And as I pondered it, my mind leapt to the gospel words that tell us that as Christians we are the 'salt and light' of the world.  Far from passive recipients of God's grace to all creation, far from being spared within the mess and muddle of real life, we have a purpose that is no less mind-blowing.  We are the salt that preserves the whole, the candle that illuminates the darkness.

    God does not lift us out of the muddle, God employs us to transform it from within.  And of course, by the Spirit, God shares with us in all of that.

    Thank you, L, for a sermon that made me think and gave me something significant to ponder.  I am looking forward to more weeks of receiving.

  • Preacher and Preachee

    (I'm sticking with my made up name for the recipient of preaching unless/until someone suggests something better!)

    There were things that I had always either been taught, or seen modelled or acquired by osmosis when it came to church.  One of these was the 'task' or 'role' of the preachee... To listen carefully and attentively to what was being said, and to allow it to move past my ears into my brain, where it would be actively or passively mulled, and thence, potentially, to my heart where its work of transformation, encouragement, rebuke or learning might take root.  Whilst preaching may include teaching, it was not the same thing.

    For many years, I would take a long walk on a Sunday afternoon to mull over what had been heard.  Occasionally I would categorise a sermon/service as "not so good" but I still recognised that my task, or my role, was to allow even some tiny nugget to reach me.  If not from the sermon per se, then from the hymns, the prayers or the Bible readings.  I knew what I needed to "do" or not "do", and how digesting a sermon was not really so different from digesting my dinner!

    Then I started preaching and began to see it from the 'other side' - the challenge of expostion and exegesis, the significance of context, pastoral issues that may be current, the preferences and predilections (if the two differ) of those present, the way this sermon fitted into a series or a theme (or not)... The list was endless and I began to appreciate just what a 'big ask' it is to preach regularly, even if (then) infrequently.

    Ministerial Students, as we were called in those days, preached a minimum of once a fortnight in their placement churches, plus assorted 'College Preaches' at other churches.  The rhythm and discipline of 'preparing Sunday dinner' as one book on preaching (that sits unread on my shelf) calls it began to emerge.  At the same time, we were expected to be present at College Chapel every week, where assorted invited preachers would take the lectionary passage for the next Sunday as their starting point.  College Chapel was, let's say, a challenging place, but it is my experiences as 'preachee' that matter here.

    Ministerial students, or at least this one, seem to go through a phase in which their role/identity in worship is somewhat confused.  I would listen to sermons and find myself becoming critical - dodgy exegesis here, wrong translation of a word there, stylistic irritant somewhere else.  This troubled me, though my wise personal tutor seemed less perturbed when I told her, assuring me that it would pass given time (she was right!).

    And there was that sermon we all recall more than a decade later because it was universally perceived as 'bad.'  A lovely, devout man, a skilled Bible scholar, and competent, accurate exegesis but...

    How arrogant that seems thinking back.  Who gave me the right or the role of critic?  Sure, this man was not a gifted preacher, but he was, then, very much a novice preacher, either brave or foolish in allowing himself to be thrown to the lions of colleagues and students.  I recall next to nothing of the service, and little of the sermon, though the key text "an evening and a thousand years are the same in the sight of God" could not hvae been better illustrated - twenty minutes felt like an eternity.

    As time has passed, and I've matured (I hope) as a preacher, so I have rediscovered my role as preachee.  That harsh critical edge has long gone (even if from time to time I particpate in serivces that leave me bemused, bothered and bewildered!) as I remind myself that I am not here to be entertained or educated, but to engage in a dynamic process of engaging with God's Holy Spirit to discover what there might be for me to mull over; what challenge, rebuke or word of encouragement will emerge unbidden along the way.

    Sermons come in all shapes and sizes, preaching styles are as varied and as unique as those who preach.  I may or may not feel 'moved' by what I hear; it may or may 'speak' to me clearly and loudly; I may find it dull and dreary or difficult to follow.  None of these matters.  Someone has gone to the bother of preparing a 'meal' for me to the very best of their ability.  I might have liked more gravy or less rice, or whatever it is, but that's about me, not about them.

    A couple of decades of preaching has taught me a lot.  It has also taught me to savour the gift of 'feeding' on the endeavours of others, finding that juicy morsel upon which to chew in the days ahead. 

    Like most meals, most sermons are quickly forgotten - they aren't all going to be memorable, that's not their point.  Like any meal, a sermon contains nutrients... and whilst sometimes we like a full roast at other times a sandwich or a takeway is a sufficient.

    I hope as I continue as a preacher, I am also aware of the task I have in providing  an adequate 'dinner' to those who for serve as preachees in my congregation(s).