Home Forums Noticings… 200205 – Twice or Once

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    February 5, 2020

    If you’ve attended Faith United in the last couple of weeks you’ll know that I’m taking a risk and repeating a whole 4 part sermon series that I first preached back in 2017. It’s based on the Sermon on the Mount, and my thinking is that Jesus’ teachings are so important here that I wanted to go back and lift my interpretations back into hearing so hopefully we can go deeper and deeper into the theological meaning of it all. I once read that respected preacher-teacher Fred Craddock said, “Any sermon not worth preaching twice isn’t worth preaching once!” I like that! So far, I haven’t received any eye rolling or comments about how folks have heard it all before. All of the comments have been positive, and many carried the sense that if they’d heard it before they may have remembered the odd piece but generally it felt new. That’s pretty humbling for a preacher! We like to think that everyone hangs on every word we utter and goes home and reflects on and studies our sermons for days after hearing them. Or maybe that’s just me!

    Upon reflection though, it does make sense that folks don’t recall sermons as deeply as I might hope – mostly because they only get to hear a sermon once, in a fixed hour, when all sorts of other things may be competing for their attention that day. Maybe they aren’t feeling well, or received challenging news, or are distracted by the beautiful clothing someone in the congregation is wearing, or got a text message, or has to sneeze! Any of these can take us out of a moment. Or perhaps they heard a nugget in the sermon and their mind went off pondering it and it brought them a wonderful insight. Or perhaps the Spirit did that wondrously mystical thing of taking the words I speak and shaping them into something a congregant needs to hear (even if I didn’t exactly say that thing).

    I tend to forget that folks only hear the sermon that one time while I have been wrestling with it, and writing and rewriting, and rehearsing, and delivering it for possibly weeks. By the time I get to Sunday the message is very prominent in my mind and is deeply imprinted on me. In other words, I hear it several times compared to a congregant hearing it once. Also, by quick count I think I offer around 42 sermons a year, plus 4-5 special reflections at other worship services, so a congregant that has attended every week (rare, but bless you!) will have heard me preach over 130 times since I last did that sermon series. Of course they wouldn’t recall every detail!

    I’m not sure exactly what my big ‘noticing’ is in all this. It just has me pondering the role of the preacher, and what we expect to happen with our sermons, and whether what we say matters. I’m reminded of a story where someone is being cross-examined and asked, in an effort to discredit their recollection of a specific event 6 months ago, what they had for dinner on that date. The witness couldn’t remember, but said emphatically that while the detail may escape them they were certain they were well fed that night and every night prior and since, because that was the nature of their family relationship.
    The detail may not matter, but the feeling of being loved, and being nourished and fed, shone through. I think I’ll hold onto that image. It’s not the details necessarily, but the relationship. I trust that’s what’s going on in our preaching, so I guess I’ll just keep on keeping on. Forgive me if you’ve heard this all before!


    United In Praise Concert ~ This Saturday @ 7 PM

    Enjoy an evening of traditional and contemporary praise music at Westminster UC (1850 Rossland Rd. E. Whitby). Featuring praise bands from Brooklin, Faith, Kingsview, Newcastle, & Westminster Churches, and Spirit.Calm. Free will offering to the M&S Fund.

    Songs For Sunday Night

    Here’s a way to make your Sunday Night Worship experience even better! Here’s a link to the songs we’ll be singing this week. Now you can listen to the songs before you come and enter into worship more fully! And if you can’t make it Sunday you can just click and listen for your own worship time. Sunday Nights at 7:15pm. (Bring a friend!)
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