One of the things I was asked to do during the latter stages of my Reader Training course, was to consider what my theology of preaching is.
I don’t do long words – a bit of a problem if you’re doing any sort of study for ministry if you have to think twice when considering something as ‘simple’ as the word “theology”. You may well have already seen how I articulate the word to make it useful to me.
My then Vicar, usefully pointed me at three questions to help me understand that I did already have a theology of preaching, and just didn’t realise it:
1. What is going in the act of preaching?
I think it is empowering, or facilitating if you like, connections between the Bible (which I believe is a collection of stories of God in action) and the group of people listening, making it as relevant as possible to their individual and community context.
That sort of comes from a synthesis of books I’ve read on the subject over the last term or so, but I would add this, which is perhaps a bit more ‘me’: preaching is about receiving and passing on images and explanations inspired by the Holy Spirit about the work of God in our lives to those who are open to being touched and changed by them.
2. Where do I see God revealed in the act of preaching?
Given my answer to Question 1, God should therefore be revealed in a preachers words, images, examples and voice, their integrity as a person, and the relationship of what all this says with the rest of the worship of which a sermon or talk forms a part.
3. What kind of God am I revealing?
God is so beyond description and his relationship with us so multi-faceted, that this is impossible to capture precisely. But I would hope that my attempts at preaching reveal a God of
- now, and not yet;
- of love, grace and mercy;
- of judgement;
- who is always with us, not just when we notice;
- who (as a friend put it in his ‘translation’ of the “Cloud of Unknowing”) wants us, not our help.
I regularly put my sermons/talks/service plans, onto this blog. I know some people don’t think it’s helpful since you preach to a specific congregation or group of congregations, but I happen to think it is – and have on more than one occasion been proved right, via Twitter feedback particularly. I look at other people’s sermons often to double-check my own ideas and theology, or to gain an insight into a particular nuance of Biblical life (e.g. to learn more about fig trees!) So it’s only polite to offer my own as a similar resource.
I also encourage members of the congregation who are web-literate to refer back to the text of my sermon later, if they wish to engage with it further – and sometimes they actually do! So I usually post links to sermons on my Facebook page too, so that the folk I know there, can pick up the link and continue the conversation – with me, or God!