2.05.2009

Writer/Preacher

A couple weeks ago, Erica wrote this: Sensual Orthodoxy, Debbie Blue: I’m over halfway through this book of sermons and I’m thinking about rationing it because I love it so much. My colleague Bart calls her “the Sarah Vowell of preaching”. This woman can take a Bible passage and pick it apart and then put it back together again. She can own up to all the weirdness and oddity of the Bible and still love it to pieces. She can find something lovely that others might discard, blow off the dust, and make it relevant. Wow. I can only hope I preach like this once in a while.

I trust Erica's taste, and since I had a bit of professional expense cash to spend, I tossed this in my shopping cart at Amazon. It arrived lickety-split, and like Erica, I can't even wait until I'm all finished to gush about how much I love this book. In some ways the sermons me of Barbara Brown Taylor's - the lyrical storytelling, incarnational language, and the way they illuminate the gospel and make it new. But they are also unlike anything I've ever read; there's an originality that is so hard to come by, given that hundreds of thousands of preachers have mined these texts before.

I haven't yet listened to the mp3 recordings on the House of Mercy website to hear how Debbie Blue preaches. Obviously, that's half the sermon; it's a live event, a spoken word in the context of worship. But I'm such a lover of the sermon as it sits on the page, the sermon as it impersonates literature. As a writer and a reader, I believe in the power of ink and paper, and as a preacher, I believe in the craft of the manuscript.

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a writer. At age fifteen, I first contemplated becoming a minister because it dawned on me that I would get to write a sermon every week. And now I realize that up to that point the only sermon I'd ever read was Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God; not exactly my homiletical model of choice. I think what I hoped for, without knowing it, that something like this was out there. That preaching could be, in addition to whatever else it is, an art form.

I echo Erica: I can only hope I preach like this once in a while.

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