Friday, July 8, 2011

A Sermon as a Two-Way Street

I've always felt a little awkward about the one-way nature of preaching. At least in most situations, I get up, say whatever I was going to say, and sit down again, shielded by the liturgy from whatever the people out there might have liked to say in response.

So this summer, we're trying to make the preaching process a little more interactive by offering "Sermon Sound-Off” between the services on Sunday mornings. It's an opportunity to reflect on what God might be trying to say to us though the readings, the sermon, and our life together, rather than me simply talking at everybody and then walking away.

The conversations are really interesting, and frankly I never know where they’ll go. Here’s a sampling of the ground we covered last Sunday, when we celebrated Independence Day:
• A quick overview of the sermon, for those coming to the second service;
• William White, the architect of the Episcopal Church’s governance, whose story I had told in the sermon;
• The Old Testament reading that day, from Deuteronomy, and God’s priority for the needs and concerns of the poor;
• Our political system and the way it often ignores the voices of those who aren’t powerful;
• Whether natural disasters are examples of God exercising judgment on nations that have turned away from a righteous path;
• From the Gospel reading that day, the seemingly impossible challenge of being “perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

What’s exciting about Sermon Sound-Off is that, although we never know what’s coming next, we never lack good conversation. And that’s a big part of the point: Our best formation as Christians comes not from simply listening to someone talk, no matter how interesting he or she may be. Our best formation as Christians comes when we enter into the conversation ourselves, making practical theology what I think God intends it to be: a dialogue, not a monologue.

So, if you're a St. Andrew's person, come to the undercroft at 9:15 a.m. on Sundays this summer and check it out. I think you’ll be amazed at what the Spirit can do among us.

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