Tag Archives: preaching

Saturday afternoon crucifixion

Tomorrow morning I will stand in front of two groups of people and tell them to go ahead and eat little wafers and tell them to go ahead and drink grape juice from small cups.

Today I am thinking through what I will say before and after I tell them to go ahead.

I speak two or three a year in front of the whole congregation. It is an excruciating delight. For me. (For them? I hope not so excruciating).

The pain is because I want to be clear. The pain is because I cannot speak as I used to teach speaking, three points, hopefully alliterative, all moving deductively toward a simple conclusion. The pain is because I don’t want to just speak in front of the congregation. I want to help them understand something from the inside, to be able to think and feel differently.

I want to help people emotionally understand the truth of God’s work.

That’s how I described what a care about a few years ago. And when I go back to that statement, written on the last  of several photocopied pages, I realize that it still is true.

But it is painful to make myself stop and listen and feel and write, to move from a speech to a story to a moment of conversation between me and 200 or 400 people and God. Because somewhere in the middle of the process of preparation, I have to stop. I have to quit. I have to stop thinking about the story and I have to be inside the story, not as the author, but as a character.

And the word “excruciating” is the perfect word, having in the middle of it the same word as leads to the center of the service tomorrow. Crucifixion. A method of dying. An event which is celebrated tomorrow in the middle of our service, in the middle of my words. Somewhere between this afternoon and tomorrow morning, I have to abandon my life so that I and 700 of my closest friends can remember another excruciating delight.

Thanks for listening, especially if you are one of my friends who tells me, “I’m not religious.”  I have to go back to writing now. Tomorrow I’m telling the story of a wedding on either side of the eating and drinking.  Weddings and crucifixions. I have some work to do.



I preached this morning.

I sound like I’m preaching a lot, I’m sure, but this morning I gave the sermon at Grabill Missionary Church. My job is more about administration and communication and training, but when our senior pastor is gone, I get to preach.

(“Get to” may sound bad. Take it in the best way. I love my boss’s preaching, in the “it has changed my life” kind of way.)

There are lots of different approaches to preaching, styles of preaching, attitudes about preaching. I was reminded again this morning that my best approach in the pulpit, as well as my best approach here, is to be a translator.

In the picture you can see the pile of books from my reading last night. I took none of those books with me onto the platform. There is a dictionary of Bible words. There is a commentary on the specific book of the Bible I was using. There is a systematic theology book there (taking concepts and explaining them as an organized system). There is a theology book that looks at the specific concept I was talking about. There are two Bibles.

When I walked onto the platform this morning, I didn’t take any of those books. I took some stories.

I looked at the books to make sure that the stories I was telling, the way I was telling the stories, was consistent with what the text says, was consistent with what scholars say. But for this audience on this morning with this speaker and with this particular subject, I didn’t need to read a bunch of commentators and Greek words and outlines. I needed to tell stories that would help us understand something not as a theological construct but as something that happened to and with and for real people.

As you are writing, as you are speaking, as you are representing an organization or a company, I offer this challenge: do your research carefully and thoughtfully. But then, rather than quoting all the quotes, tell a story for the people you are looking at. It’s scary for you. But maybe they don’t need experts. Maybe they need someone to translate truth into real life.


I can tell you what I was talking about if you ask me offline. I’ll even send you a link for the sermon. But I’ll leave that to you.

UPDATE:  Okay. Here’s the link.