Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sermon surprises

Every once in awhile when writing a sermon it doesn't come out as planned; and sometimes, in a very rare moment, I look at it and wonder, "Where did THAT come from."

My sermon in seminary about swapping the position of the font and altar and allowing everyone to partake of communion whether or not baptized was one of those surprising sermons.

This one has to do with the parable of the sower -- A sower went out to sow and some seed landed on the path, and some seed landed on the rocky ground .... -- and I was thinking, "This is good timing since I'm playing catch up from last week at camp."

You know ... one of those "easy" parables that we've all heard and/or preached on several times and read various interpretations. So I sat down to write the sermon out with the full intention of it being yet another Rev. Ref evangelism sermon. Something along the lines of, "It's not important where we scatter the seed, it's just important that we get out there and scatter it."

But as I started writing, something interesting happened. I was struck by a totally different image than I had ever heard or seen before. Now, that's not to say that it hasn't been discussed by someone sometime; after all, we're talking about 1900 years of preaching here.

The basic gist of the sermon is along the lines that I, as the priest, am the sower. It's my job to make sure that I plant the seeds in the good soil, not just toss them out there willy nilly. Likewise, the church is the soil, and it's the parishioners job to help ensure that the church is good soil for growing. They need to till it weed it and generally make sure people have a healthy place to grow.

I think that'll preach. It better, because it's the weekend and I'm not about to rewrite it.


Father John | 12:27 AM, July 11, 2008  

We will just have to call you Johnny Apple Preacher from here on out... but honestly... I like it. In something I just read from The Pastoral Rule from Gregory the Great, "... every preacher should be 'heard' more by his deeds than by his words." Given that we are all called to witness, the laity too can be a witness to God's call.

David | 9:17 AM, July 11, 2008  

Hey Todd
Can't wait to read the whole thing. I am sitting here struggling with a new approach to this text myself.
My concern with the little tidbit you gave us is leaving the determination of what is "good soil" to you, as the sower. I am not sure that's up to us, as preachers and priests, to figure out.
Also, I worry about putting the sowing function in the hands of the clergy, when statistics show new people come to church when invited by the lay folks by a HUGE margin over those who come when invited by clergy. I know you are not talking specifically about inviting to church, but I would be concerned about the folks in the pew thinking you just let them off the hook.
I do really like the thinking about the "church" making sure it is good soil, by the work of the people, by welcoming, etc. That may be a way I go with this.
Good thoughts...

Reverend Ref + | 11:14 AM, July 11, 2008  

Johnny Apple Preacher ... heh ... that's funny.

David: To address your concern about what is "good soil," it seems to me that good soil is that which nourishes the "seeds" and allows them to grow. If church is as barren as the path where people don't understand what is going on, or if it's only a place where we go to feel good about ourselves, or to be assured that the size of our house is in direct proportion to God's blessing -- that is not good soil. But if we make church a place where we nourish people, care for them, teach them, then that is good soil which produces growth.

I have no intention of "letting them off the hook." I have told them since Day One that this is really their parish, I'm just passing through. They bear the brunt of evangelism. And in this case, that means helping to ensure that the church is good soil which can help with growth.

The analogy of me as the sower means that I have to be intentional about the direction I am sowing. In other words, this isn't a high school "shotgun" essay in which you just throw everything out there and hope some of it sticks. I need to be focused about what I'm doing.

Heh ... maybe I'll just send the parishioners to this blog Sunday instead of actually preaching.

Or not.

David | 12:28 PM, July 11, 2008  

Yea, I get it. That makes sense. I especially like the emphasis on affecting what we can affect - is our church good soil or not? Great question to ask.....
I just don't want to be in charge of deciding which soil is good soil. However, I do want to make sure that my church is focused on being (becoming) that kind of soil

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