Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Reflections on suburban church preaching

Reading noteUnderstand that the point of this prose is to identify the critical role of the sermon and of the stressors that the preacher is under. Likewise, Buechner had a similar intent.  Read the first part of the prose in consideration that it is painting the picture of every Western World suburban congregation.  If you look around you in your congregation you'll probably find someone that fits for every character. It is an 'everyman' congregation.  


Ackowledgement: Pastor Frederick Buechner


An elegant elderly lady, glad that the loud music is finished, turns up her hearing aid.  A young mother fresh from the morning's gym session, who yearns for the day that her husband will join her in church, slips her pre-school son an iPad turned to silent.  The accountant of the large retail conglomerate, who daily battles doubts of faith, places his notice-sheet on his lap.  A recently separated woman, who still pines for her marriage, reaches for her well-thumbed Bible.  The father of four, who is not at peace that his grown children do not attend any religious service, turns on his electronic device to open his eBible.  A rotund butcher, who for twenty years has suppressed his same-sex attraction urges to best hold together life with his spouse, gazes uncertainly at the stain-glass window.  The local real estate agent, who is smug in his long term role as elder, smiles that today the Senior Minister is rostered to preach.   The angular stockbroker gazes up at the upper windows glad to see the morning full of sunlight.  An office worker adjusts her glasses and reaches for a disposal coffee cup - it’s last content of latte going cold.  The erudite scientist quickly re-reads the day’s Biblical text puzzled by Matthew 18:6.  The immigrant worker, who has a daily struggle of discrimination, reaches for his Bible comforted that on each page one column is in the language of his birth and the other column in English.  An energetic mid-age dentist contemplates if it was true that he sensed the Senior Minister leaving half-way through the Parish Prayer meeting to attend the banality of a televised football match. The fresh ordinand ponders whether women will be permitted to preach in this church as occurs in other local same denomination churches.  A mother-of-three who has a constant wheeze is distracted by the buzz of a faulty musician’s microphone cord connection.  A middle-age mother glances briefly at the cross and momentarily tries to balance her Christianity with her multi-level marketing plan sales occupation.  An optometrist, who is yet to have the bravado to share with his brother-in-law the devastation bought unto the family through the brother-in-law's same-sex relationship, trains his focus on the lectern. The specialist doctor, who is still shocked by the two-year-prior maladministration of church renovations, changes his posture rigidly in expectation of the Senior Minister’s delivery from the Word.  The tweed coat wearing lay service leader takes his seat glad that the preacher has arrived in perfect time from another parish commitment (the first time in three past occasions)…

The preacher places his note on the lectern shuffling them out like a StarCity Casino blackjack dealer.  The odds are high.  He straightens his back and takes a deep breath.  He reminds himself to smile. The expectation is enormous.  The needs are deep.  The preacher could be true to the Word and true to the oratory norms of the sermon form.   He could build hope and allow people to see through him to Christ (and through Christ to God).  He could be a shepherd to all and depict how his respect hinges not upon his achievements but instead on his building up in the Spirit of all of his flock.  The sermon begins …


Note 1: all links good as at 28 June 2017

Note 2: all characters are works of fiction - I've certainly never known a tweed coat wearing lay leader.  I'll change the characters from time-to-time so feel free to come back regularly.

Note  3: This text was stylised from a narrative written by Pastor Frederick Buechner as depicted in Philip Yancey’s book Soul Survivor.

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