Friday, April 28, 2006

Preaching inadequacy

Tuesday morning I attended a really good training session on preaching...The first part of the morning looked specifically at the issues that often deter us from preaching on Paul (in a totally unscientifice survey of those present, it emerged that most of us would only preach on the epistle 10% of the time, if that...). As always, I came home determined to do more reading, to really engage with the texts I am presuming to preach...and, as always, my resolve remains pathetically unrealised to date...and in a moment I'll start feverishly trying to collect thoughts for Sunday evening...REVELATION. Help!!!!
The second part of the proceedings was led by James Wallace, a Redemptorist priest and professor in homiletics in Washington who was a hugely engaging speaker. Though I worry I may never actually get round to reading it, I'm ordering his book Preaching to the Hungers of the Heart without more ado. I'd already bought it for WonderfulVicar at Christmas on the recommendation of the ever-inspiring Diocesan Director of Ministry, but having heard Wallace for myself I really want to own it.
I'm still reflecting, though, on my response to a question he put to us all.
"When you are preaching, what image would you like to use to describe what you are doing, or hoping to do?"
There were lots of answers of the very impressive and rather daunting variety...one man sets before him the model of Charles Simeon, the inside of whose pulpit was famously carved with the words "Sir, we would see Jesus"...another hoped to be a burning bush...another a lens refracting sunlight to set fire to paper....another, a connector...making sense of the world in the light of the word (that one, at least, I could imagine aspiring to).
And me? I didn't offer my image...and I'm still wondering what it says about me as a preacher that the predominant thought was of a well-meaning dog (probably yet another labrador) charging enthusiastically through the undergrowth trying to come up with a trail that actually leads somewhere...or perhaps an old-fashioned explorer with pith-helmet and stout stick, clearing a path through the jungle on behalf of those who are travelling with me.
I suspect that just possibly I need to stop and have a long hard look at myself and what's going on for me when I am preaching...whether there is actually a reasonable basis for my feeling that I am totally inadequate to the task and have a non relationship with Scripture (spot the Catholic) or whether actually I just need to remember that I'm me and will never ever manage to be anyone else, no matter how much reading I attempt.
Meanwhile, those of you who preach, I'd love to hear what your image of yourself as preacher might be.

1 comment:

John said...

Actually, I far prefer your picture of the preacher! Perhaps it's the non-authoritarian nature of it - "Hey, look at this, isn't it cool?"

To me, the preacher's role is to lead our exploration. Sure, she should teach, exhort, inspire, but primarily she should push the boundaries. As you say, try to find new paths through the thicket and new vistas to admire.

Keep it up!

pax et bonum