Preaching in the Dictionary

If you look at the photo of my “Praying Women” notebook from yesterday’s post, you will see a ripped part of a page tinted purple. I’ve got a detail here that you may or may not be able to read. It’s part of a dictionary page that contains the word “prayer.”

Cute, right? The poet in me was delighted to see that after “pray,” “prayer,” “prayerbook,” and “praying” come the words “preach” and “preacher.”

Never one to let things go as coincidence (or alphabetical necessity), I immediately began thinking about how essential prayer is to my preaching.

I love words. I love reading them. I love crafting them. And if I’m not careful I can write an entire sermon on the energy of my own linguistic intellect. That strategy worked really well for my papers in college and graduate school. But sermons are something different. The point of a sermon is not to convince the audience of my personal intellectual abilities. The point of a sermon is to bring the word of God to the people.

Lest I forget this distinction, I try to make prayer central to my sermon-writing and preaching process. Some weeks I’m more prayerful than others. So,this is a good reminder from the dictionary.

But wait. After “preacher” we have “preamble.” And then . . . “precarious.”

Now that is a word to describe preaching–precarious. The given definition is: “depending on the will of another; uncertain; insecure.”

Isn’t that the truth?

The preacher depends on the will of God. I don’t know how many times people have thanked me for saying something in my sermon that I’m pretty sure I never said.

What one preaches is uncertain. Maybe there are preachers who know the main point of their sermon from the first words they type. But I usually work my way through the text, often ending up someplace very different from where I thought I was going.

And the preacher should be, in a certain sense, insecure. Did you catch what I said before? The point of a sermon is to bring the word of God to the people. I am not up to that task. I cannot accomplish that of my own insights and abilities. And Heaven forbid I should start thinking that I can.

So I like this image from the dictionary. My preaching surrounded by prayer and precariousness. May it be so.

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