I have always seen good sermons as an art form. Outstanding sermons live beyond their moment in time because they instruct us, inspire us, cajole us into good behavior, or simply explain something to us that we need to think about. Unfortunately, most sermons serve as soporifics.
Whether it is the sermons of Paul Tillich,i William Sloane Coffin, Jrii Frederick Buechner,iii or Martin Luther King, Jr.iv, truly great preachers understand they must catch our attention and ignite our imagination. Thus, they bring our minds – individually and collectively – to a consideration of important things.
In his advice to young preachers, William Sloane Coffin advised them to spend one hour in preparation for every minute spent preaching.
Never ordained, I started doing a lot of lay preaching in the 1990’s and found that I enjoyed the study process and the delivery process. I tried not to put people to sleep. Whether I succeeded in this simple goal, I will never know.
Preaching is similar to classroom teaching but is not the same. Preachers, probably get no more than fifteen minutes once a week to capture their audience’s attention.
Yet teaching and preaching have many commonalities. Both are content driven; both are performance driven. As I am cleaning out my files, I am uncovering lectures given and sermons that were sometimes delivered and sometimes written but never delivered. I will post these here as they are unburied.
Tillich, P. (1963). The Eternal Now. Scribners; The New Being (2005). Bison Books; (1948); The Shaking of the Foundations. Scribners.
ii Coffin, W. S. (2008). The Collected Sermons of William Sloane Coffin-The Riverside Years, v. 1 and v.2. Westminster/John Knox.
iii Buechner, F. (2007). Secrets in the Dark: A life in sermons. Harper/Collins; (1977). The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairytale. Harper and Row.
ivKing, M. L. Jr., (2000). A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Martin Luther King, Jr. Warner Books.