At one of the places where I attend worship I have been asked to preach and so am preaching again on Sunday, as I have done twice before. The worshipping community there is transient and services are conducted with great efficiency. A Eucharistic service will take 30 minutes.
In the past, in other places, with other communities I have preached for up to 40 minutes. My preferred time is 20-25 minutes (if necessary). In the past I have also preached homilies of about 5-7 minutes. For the service I am preaching at on Sunday I have three minutes. A twentieth of an hour. 180 seconds. A short amount of time that brings its own exciting challenges.
What can I say in three minutes? What should I be able to say in three minutes? What is there to say in three minutes?
To say, 'repent' takes about a second, but to consider what that means in our context and in other contexts.... How long does that take?
To say 'The kingdom is here' takes only two seconds, but to draw anything out of such a phrase, how long does that take?
When preaching for three minutes the danger for myself is that I round everything down, smooth the edges, fill in gaping cracks and preach a word that has become all the more pleasant to swallow in such a short time. Another danger is that I don't saying anything at all.
But, how do I give a significant message, what can the Holy Spirit express through me in three minutes? Is it enough to leave people with a thought for the day? Is it too much to try to give them more than that...? To either give a soluble gospel that freely disperses into the everyday existence of life? Or a heavy tablet of challenge and cost, with no water to wash it down?
Let Jesus be my guide as I try in the Spirit's strength to find an honest, heart-felt, Spirit-led word for Sunday that doesn't just flatter or make laugh, that doesn't offend for no reason and that doesn't confuse.
Perhaps I should preach Jesus?
A wise evangelist once challenged me to tell him why I am Christian in the time a short match takes to burn down to your fingers... You practice with matches.
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