Monday, October 25, 2010

A secret to great preaching

There are many secrets to great preaching. Perhaps too many to keep track of! Here is one:

Connect the details of whatever one is saying to the big picture (or, to a big picture, such as Who God Is, or Where this Parish Is Heading, or What Is the Gospel).

If we walk away from church saying, "There were lots of good things in that sermon ... but I am not sure what it was all about" then the chances are high that connection between 'the details' and the 'big picture' have not been made.

That then may provoke us to ask ourselves, 'What is my vision for this parish?' or 'What is my vision of God?'.

Preparation of sermons at that point may mean lifting our heads from the commentaries, smelling the roses, and thinking prayerfully while praying thoughtfully about what vision this sermon relates to.

Chances are then good that vision will fuel passion and passion will give the edge which means the words said will be the words heard by the congregation!

Monday, October 18, 2010

So many saints, so few days

There are only 365 days in a year, unless it is a leap year, which only adds one more day. As the calendar of Christian celebration accrues more not less saints (cf. the addition this weekend past of Mary McKillop as a saint in the Roman calendar), or, if one is an NZ Anglican, more not less worthy people from our past to remember with thanksgiving, it seems only a matter of time before one's liturgical calendar is void of days to which nothing special, other than God's grace and goodness, is attached! Alternatively, since some days already have multiple possibilities for special remembrance and celebration, we face working through calendars which give us no great guidance as to which on the list for a particular day has priority in celebration over the others!

My general sense is that no great pressure should be felt by worship organisers to celebrate saints days and the like. The days we all should celebrate are the great days of our Lord's own life, death and resurrection, as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Everything else should be optional. What do you think?

Of course even my approach leaves plenty of room for debate over certain days. Is the Annunciation (25 March) a day in the life of our Lord (i.e. his conception) or a Marian festival?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Flow, let it flow

I return to a familiar theme for the few faithful readers here! Let the components of a service of worship flow from one to the other. Find ways to ensure this happens: print the whole service plus songs on a service sheet/booklet; put the service on a screen via laptop and projector; utterly minimise gaps in the choices made in the prayer book so the use can easily follow the service from page to page with page numbers scarcely needing to be mention. Whatever way works for you, let the service flow. Flow! No staccato, stop-start or start-stop. Be continuous not discrete, smooth not rough.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

There is more to St Francis than the animals

On the plus side to the tradition of have a 'pet service' in association with St Francis is that the TV cameras love it, and we can be pretty much assured each year of some TV news focus on the church - one or other of the cathedrals usually - the more donkeys the merrier!

There is a downside to this association, I suggest: it tempts us to think of St Francis in unidimensional terms. 'He's the guy who blessed the animals, isn't he?' In fact St Francis was an extraordinary multidimensional disciple of Christ: teacher, mentor, preacher, missionary, monastic, apostle, visionary.

He did not receive the stigmata because he liked animals. He became Christ-like in ways few achieve. He was instrumental in renewal of the church. He became an inspirational figure to thousands if not millions in succeeding generations.

Hopefully our sermons each St Francis' Day acknowledge the breadth and depth of this holy one of God.