Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Morning Preacher: Perspective

Window at Bishop's Ranch
Yesterday morning I dashed up to Healdsburg to go to services at The Bishop's Ranch and, more importantly, to visit with Kirstin of Barefoot and Laughing fame. I left home later that I ought so I slipped into the pews in time to hear that cheery little gospel lesson assigned for the day. Kirstin gave me a big hug and whispered, "Aren't you glad you aren't preaching on THAT?" Oh, man! Was I ever!

At the Ranch they have the clever tradition of simply having some silence. It was very welcome and soothing and allowed me to think about what a tricky job preachers have. Not only do they need to find some kind of message in a text that is not of their choosing and which may be very difficult, but you never know what the members of the congregation have gone through even that very morning that might color how they hear your words. Maybe they are still flustered at being late. Maybe they are thinking about their friend sitting next to them who is preparing to visit her oncologist after some unsettling news. Maybe they are thinking about a neighbor whose partner just died. Maybe they are looking for a new job. Maybe all of those are just me. Multiply that by the number of people in the congregation and it's amazing any coherent message can get delivered by a sermon at all.

"You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?" Jesus asks. Maybe it's because with earth and sky you get a little distance. So much harder to get perspective when all the information is immediate and jumbled.

As a preacher, what I take from this is this: I need time and silence to stew a bit before making any pronouncements in order to sort through the jumble that is my own experience. And I need to recognize that if someone doesn't get what I'm trying to say, it may be due neither to my giving a bad sermon nor to the listener not paying attention. It may just be one of those days, cloudy and unpredictable.

Prayers and blessings go out to Kirstin (so great seeing you!), my neighbor R., friends J. and A., both dealing with breast cancer, and in memory of my neighbor Jeff, may he rest in peace.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Laura! Is this neighbor Jeff in your post the J. who you spoke of in your sermon a month ago? If this is him, I am so sorry for you and for R.

As far as my own thoughts on why it is harder to interpret the present time than the earth and the sky, I would say (a) if Jesus had ever had to listen to the weather report on the evening news, he would know that we're not actually so good at interpreting the appearance of the sun, the wind, and the rain in the first place! but (b) less irreverantly, and less defensively, earth and sky are easier to predict, in my humble opinion, because they follow the natural laws of physics - whereas the present time is harder to interpret because history and current events follow the vagaries of the human heart.

I don't know how to build that insight up into a sermon example, exactly - I was pretty glad I didn't have to preach on Sunday morning myself! - but let it stand as it is as a historian's statement of faith.

LKT said...

Yes, that's the J. from my sermon a couple of weeks ago.

And I think you are so right about the vagaries of the human heart being much more complicated than the weather.

Kirstin said...

I love this post. And I had a really wonderful time with you.