Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Evolution of a Sermon ~ 1

"Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence."

~ I Peter 3:15b-16a

I'm preaching at my home church on Memorial Day week-end.

It doesn't sound like a big deal, I suppose.  First holiday week-end of the summer ~ the church will be half empty. I don't even know whether either of our pastors will be there.

But it is a big deal.  I haven't preached there in three years.  The last time was the Sunday after Easter, a few weeks after the husband of one of my best friends had very suddenly died.  Five months before Josh died.  I was a first year seminary student, full of joy and anticipation, trying to offer some hope to my heartbroken circle of friends of two decades.  I had no inkling of how very changed I myself would be before the long-awaited summer was over.

I wonder what I should do.

I've preached maybe thirty sermons in these past two years.  (None at all in that nightmare of a  first year.) I think the best are probably those completely soaked in the personal experience that goes unmentioned.  

I took a quick look at the texts a couple of weeks ago and decided on the one above, because the words "gentleness and reverence" leaped out at me.   Partly because my first spiritual director so often frames his remarks in the context of "attention, reverence and devotion," meaning that the word "reverence" brings a number of connotations immediately to mind.  And partly because "gentleness and reverence" are two words and I am contending with double vision, literally and metaphorically, these days.

So.  I have a passage. I've looked up a bit about the authorship and context of the letter in question. I've started to wonder about the nouns: defense, anyone, accounting, hope, gentleness, reverence.  They're an interesting set of words, all strung together in one sentence like that.

And.  I'm thinking about that sanctuary of ours, which is so beautiful, and about what it's like to go there.  After that funeral.

It's still difficult. 

Image: The beginning of I Peter, from a 1407 AD Latin Bible on display in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, England,  here.


  1. My prayers are for you while you develop this sermon, which seems to remind you of who you were and who you are becoming.

  2. God will lead you, uphold you, give you the words and the spirit to impart them so you may share this sacred, blessed experience with your brothers and sisters. This I believe, and I pray with you.

  3. I'm feeling a sense of awe. At this process. And the soulfulness of your words.

    And how you shine that soulfulness on Peter's words.

    Reverence, indeed.

  4. You preach even when you aren't trying. I always learn so much from you. Blessed are those who will be in your beautiful church on Memorial weekend. They are going to be touched in a mighty way, by the Spirit, through you. I pray for the exact same healing thing to happen to you, as you go back to the place so laden with sadness, and see it with another set of eyes.