The Sunday sermon, for many, is a relic of a bygone age that both faithless and faithful folks have just moved beyond. The irreligious and religion in general crowd hold little desire to sit and listen to things they do not believe, or do not believe matter. And those who claim the name of Christ have managed to frequent the religious marketplace, yet leave sermons to sit quietly on the shelf. As you might expect, this reality is grievous to us preacher types, left to question the value of both craft and office deemed increasingly irrelevant in the eyes of the masses.
Yet, the spoken word about the Living Word still flows from pulpits and the hearts of those who stand behind them. One part of this resolve rests on the twin pillars of gospel truth and an unshakable calling to proclaim it. The other finds its home in a special and specific relationship between the preacher and those preached to Sunday after Sunday and season after season. These two meet together in an appointed hour with the hope that a word from the Lord will been found, packaged and delivered to those whom the pastor is called to love and lead. There are few settings anymore where one person speaks to one group, who listens to and values both the truth and its teller. Such is what I have come to know as “the preaching relationship”; a congregational context where life is shared. That relationship is, in its purist form, a sacred one for the parson and the people.
Here’s what one of my preaching heroes, Fred Craddock, says about another, Walter Brueggemann.
“He always respects the integrity of both the biblical text and of the listeners, but he will not allow them to stay apart. He listens to the Scripture and the human condition, and then develops a conversation between the two. He offers here what the gospel itself offers, and that is an alternative world in which to relate to others and to function.”
That’s what, each Sunday, I endeavor to do. I grasp the claims of Christ and the various calls of our holy alphabet, and try to speak them into the lives of people I love, and who I hope will listen. And, together with me, learn. That’s part of why Sunday morning matters so much, and why meaningful worship is the first and foremost of the “These Three Things” on which I hang the hopes of our church’s and its future. Come to think of it, that practice has been thing one since the birth of Christian community. The great joy of my ministerial life is that I get to do this; and I get to do this with you.