Sunday, July 19, 2009

Looking underneath every phrase…

For me, to preach is first of all to immerse myself in the word of God, to look inside every sentence and underneath every phrase for the layers of meaning that have accumulated there over the centuries. It is to examine my own life and the life of the congregation with the same care, hunting the connections between the word on the page and the word at work in the world. It is to find my own words for bringing those connections to life, so that others can experience them for themselves. When that happens—when the act of preaching becomes a source of revelation for me as well as for those who listen to me—then the good news every sermon proclaims is that the God who acted is the God who acts, and that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in the world.

Understood in this way, preaching becomes something the whole community participates in, not only through their response to a particular sermon but also through identifying with the preacher. As they listen week after week, they are invited to see the world the way the preacher does—as the realm of God’s activity—and to make connections between their Christian faith and their lives the same way they hear them made from the pulpit. Preaching is not something an ordained minister does for fifteen minutes on Sundays, but what the whole congregation does all week long; it is a way of approaching the world, and of gleaning God’s presence there.

From The Preaching Life by Barbara Brown Taylor (Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 1993), p. 32. [with thanks to Vicki K Black]

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