We preachers often wonder whether our words have any effect. The people we preach to and the world around us pretty much look the same week after week. It doesn’t often look like the Good News has caught fire in people’s hearts. It doesn’t look like the reign of God is being built. For all our efforts to preach the Good News, how come it looks like nothing much is changing?
This is the most intensive season of the year for priests and pastors. With Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, multiple services for Easter, plus extra Lenten parish educational activities, there’s a lot to prepare for. Before you feel overwhelmed, though, let’s do a quick review to remind ourselves what will help your sermon prep—and all your preparations—to be holy, from your heart, and as efficient as possible.
Let’s be honest: The observation of Lent is often reduced to artificially somber and ritualistic practices of self-denial without an honest, whole-hearted attempt to genuinely experience the flow and meaning of the season. The “practices” undertaken involve simply giving up chocolate or wine. That’s suffering for Jesus, for sure, but what does it accomplish if we’re not focused meaningfully on what we should be? So I’d like to suggest that in our preaching, we shake things up a bit. Let’s preach a countercultural Lent.
Fasting at lent can seem rote or compulsory or just a convenient way to drop a few pounds. But Jesus has bigger plans for our lives than watching the scale drop. In this post, I offer a 6-week lenten sermon series for your use. But before you dive into its structure and content, let’s take a moment to consider Jesus’s why and how for fasting.
To be an amateur means you do what you do for the love of it. Not because you have to. Not because you get paid for it. And not because you have a deadline to meet. You do it because you love it. The “greats” in any craft become great because they’re amateurs first. They pursue their craft with joy, zest, and fascination.
Scripture—lectio divina, the Daily Office, biblical scholarship, and community study—has been a passion of mine before I knew the words to call it. This part of my life has held a privileged place in my schedule for so long, that I came up surprised and saddened to begin to realize just how much of our scriptures I had been neglecting.
If someone asked why we’re called to preach, we’d likely have a ready answer. We’re practiced in the art of the spiritual answer, abdicating the role of our “self” in arriving at ministry’s doorstep, preferring to lay responsibility at the feet of a divine, outside call. And that’s true. But perhaps not complete.