Recently I have been experimenting (prayerfully - I hope) with how I preach.
For me preaching is a life long journey, and with preaching comes the opportunity to experiment creatively, but also to break your back with false aspirations.
At times I have preached from full scripts.
At other times I have preached from scripts much more weighted in the style of popular theology books.
Sometimes I have preached using only three words as markers.
Markers in the sand. (OK, enough with the pop. theology style....
..... For now.)
Sometimes, when I haven't been able to prep a sermon and only have a post-it note to preach from I have felt like kicking myself.
But then, that's idolatry.
What matters is the motive, and the discernment, and the hope, and the prayer.
Recently I have been thinking through the interaction between blogs and preaching.
Occasionally I will post a sermon on this blog after I have preached.
I generally only do this if I have a full script written (if that's right or wrong, who knows, another question to contemplate).
But the point is, when do I post these blog sermons? Usually, after I have preached them in church.
And that's interesting, I did that by default. I do that by default.
I preach and then I post the preach.
But ultimately I want a dialogue about my sermons, about God. I want to talk to people about sermons. But by posting the sermons after the preach.
After they have happened. I naturally limit the dialogue.
In an ever moving culture especially a digital fast paced blogosphere (see how outdated that feels already, "blogosphere????") people move on to the next thing.
If I blog post a sermon I preached yesterday, why should I expect people to engage with it?
And if I want a person to person conversation (whatever that means) with a blog reader then it will always be after the preach has occurred. After the "final word" from the pulpit, "six feet above contradiction" is preached.
Two things happen off the back of this:
1. the first is that a conversation partner's voice is always heard after a message is given to a wider audience in the act of preaching. Therefore, the discussion naturally becomes something of an addendum, or an appendix to the preach.
2. the second is that, as a preacher, I implicitly close myself down to being shaped by the input of others. Basically I present a, "yes I'd love to hear what you think, but not in a way that might shape what I think, and actually, what I will say in my preach." I am closing myself off from the other, but doing so, whilst appearing to be open to embrace the views of the other.
But only one of our speech will be publicly shaped by this for the immediate time.
So why don't I blog my sermons before I preach?
Mainly because I like the sting in the tail, I like the surprise, the twist, the anticipation. I like to challenge people to think differently, to be gripped, to be excited by the word of God. Which itself, is not a bad thing.
But two things implicitly come from this as well:
1. the first is that I fear that if someone knows what is going to be said, they won't engage. That they'll be like, "yeah this is the bit when he says that the triumphal entry is a disgrace, yadda yadda yadda."
But surely there is a lesson to learn from theatre here (@nedlunn ?). When you go to see the production of a play at the theatre, in many cases you know how it ends. And not only that, in many cases, you know the precise words that will be used to get you to the ending.
But you are still excited. I remember seeing a theatre adaption of Orwell's 1984, it was a touring production and an adaption. I knew what was going to happen in the end (as ultimately we do with sermons - in the bigger story at least - Jesus? Restoration? Forgiveness?).
But actually, in the case of 1984, how the playwright got us to that point, the words used, the choreography of actions and words. That was all unexpected.
But even in a play that you may know word for word, like, Romeo and Juliet, the theatre director and ensemble still have the power to shock, and surprise you, they can still draw you into the story.
2. the second is that if a visitor to church comes to church on an off-chance and hears the sermon (they probably wouldn't read the blog or even know about it), but I speak to them from a position of relative power: not that I am a powerful preacher. But because I have had time to pray, read commentaries, lectio divina, live the passage, ask questions about it. And distill into the allotted time a reflection on this.
Now the hearer could check the lectionary/sermon series and research the passage and so be informed of the passage. But they wouldn't get chance to see my reflections on it - like being told the resulting data of a scientific survey, but without being told the conclusions and actions that come from it.
But in the case of the spiritual seeker who may have stumbled across the church, what I am doing is modelling a way to engage in discussion from a point of power. I am refusing to actually engage fully in their legitimate questions, and instead I am very definitely avoiding deep conversation and their research and genuine queries, in the hope of a simple, uncomplicated, conversion where I don't give them opportunities to ask the real questions on their heart.
So what about the toothless walrus? Well, perhaps I am scared of being the toothless walrus, stood in the pulpit, with everyone knowing what I'm going to say next (not that many folk read this blog!)
Perhaps I am scared that folk won't engage properly. Perhaps, I am scared that my already-read-once-words would appear flabby and without real conviction. That the "power" would have gone from them. That I can't just breeze people in to believing something without chance to either reflect on the words, or talk about them.
And that's where I am the real toothless walrus, and deserve to be named as one. When I am too afraid of discussion, in case I might be shaped and my views challenged.
Long live the toothless walrus.