This week at last I'm able to concentrate reasonably (hooray for life sans co-codamol) so have moved on from reading PD James & Phil Rickman to the more reflective pleasures of Gilead.
I realise that I must be the only person I know who didn't read this two years ago at least - but I'm glad to have got to it now, as it is perfect to drift in and out of, & contemplate gently.
With a less than perfect temporary cast (that was the short-lived#4 - I'm intent on getting full value from the NHS) I found myself awake & readin at 3.00 the other morning. Even at that uninspiring hour this struck me with some force
A good sermon is one side of a passionate conversation. It has to be heard in that way There are three parties to it of course but so there are to even the most private thought the self that yields the thought the self that acknowledges and in some way responds to the thought and the Lord
That sounds both wise & admirable, until you find yourself preaching into an almost entirely unresponsive context...here you are not at all sure whether nyone has in fact heard you at all. On Sunday, for example, I felt that from my side I was truly trying to initiate a passionate conversation. After all, there is not much about which a priest might feel more passionate than the prayer life of her church but, without indulging in a full-scale pity-party, it doesn't seem as if that passion is being passed on...I suspect that neither congregation (and I preached the same sermon in both churches) is used to providing any sort of sermon feedback - and I appreciate that this isnt always easy to give or to receive. The sermon feedback forms which were part of training were rarely occasions of deep joy - but they did at least furnish a few clues that the sermon was heard, that maybe just once in a while it might even have been useful -if only as an irritant.
I have an ambivalent relationship with preaching. I rarely give it the time I'd really like to, and too often there is a period in which sermon writing feels very close to getting blood out of a stone...but nearly always by the time I actually find myself in the pulpit there is a sense that at least some of these are the words that need to be heard. It would be reassuring to know that this was happening, and if anyone felt moved to join in a passionate conversation -well, that really would be rather wonderful.