I picked up a copy of The Sermon Maker yesterday, and I've absolutely devoured it. It's the best book on preaching I've ever read. Better yet, it comes at a time that I needed to refocus my energies in preaching and in life. It's been a tough year, mainly because it's been a tiring year. Slowly, I'm beginning to remember my call and gain some passion again.
Some quotes from the book:
"Even in the old days He never asked men to do what was reasonable. Men can do that for themselves. They can buy and sell, heal and govern. But then out of some deep place comes the command to do what makes no sense at all - to build a ship on dry land; to sit among the dunghills; to marry a whore; to set their son on the altar of sacrifice. Then, if men have faith, a new thing comes." (William Golding) (p.26)
"Great sermons don't merely spring from good homiletical practice. They don't come from tons of study. Study can inform the sermon, but it cannot teach it its music...All sermonic tools have their place in sermon preparation, but great preaching only grows out of the soil of great lives." (p.33)
"God, help me not to preach better. Just help me to be better. Do nothing for my reputation. Only bring me to the place where I see what needs to be done, and make me alive for the doing of it. Don't make my sermons interesting; make them important. Let them seek no critiques as to their eloquence or boredom. Only let them be a cry on your behalf for all you want done in the world." (p.51)
"Increase your life. Live your life more fully. And pay attention to it...Stay as alive as you dare, and trust that your life with all its unorthodox twists and turns is still God's territory. Dare to tell some stories that don't sound like religious stories. Use some language that doesn't sound like it belongs in church. Read fiction. Take clogging lessons. Go be alive, so that you yourself are a living sermon about abundant life. Then whatever you say will be worth listening to." (Barbara Brown Taylor) (p. 116)
"Great preaching is just personal counseling done on a group basis." (p. 130)
"Each day brings you opportunities to raise important questions, to speak to higher values, and surface unresolved conflicts. Every day you have the chance to make a difference in the lives of people around you..."
"To lead is to live dangerously because when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear - their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking - with nothing more to offer perhaps than a possibility."
Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky, Leadership on the Line
We're back from an eight-day trip to Philadelphia to visit Charlene's sister and her new husband. I spent all day driving and now I can't sleep, even though I'm very tired.
The two top attractions of the trip were Philadelphia's historic district, "America's most historic square mile" (where the Declaration of Independence was signed, home of the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin's grave, etc.), and visiting New York (apart from when we lost one of our cars overnight when the parking garage closed). It was sobering to drive past Ground Zero, but exciting to be in such a vibrant city.
My favorite part of the trip into New York was our time with the congregation at Brooklyn Tabernacle. We worshiped; we were moved; we were comforted; we were rebuked. Jim Cymbala did an excellent job in leading the service. Beyond the beautiful new building and the phenomenal choir, even beyond the multicultural flavor of the church, God is doing a work there. It was exciting to participate, even for a day.