Sep 11, 2009

A Short Word about Preaching

For years I have had a running debate first with myself and then others about the value of doing sermon series as an alternative to preaching texts from The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). Some homiletic evaluators suggest that sermon series engage people for a time of say, four to six weeks. Others declare sermon series are a way to make the Bible “useful to modern people” (O Lord, please forgive me for typing that sacrilege). Others suggest people in our culture are accustomed to series as in a football season or a series of TV episodes like “The Closer” or “Monk: The Final Season.”

Whatever the ultimate purpose of preaching is, I do know that I have been alternating in a random way for a time between pure “lectionary” and some sermon series. Currently we at FUMC, Arlington have been preaching a five week series on Bishop Robert Schnase’s best-selling book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.

This little book describes what the Bishop sees as the five core practices of effective (fruitful) congregations. The chapters cover: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity.

One quandary I have encountered preaching this particular series is the person (several) who says “everyone already knows this” (the content of the practices). Because this statement “everyone already knows this” is more or less true, on my last Sunday in the series I am going to sub-title my sermon: "The Five Practices as Flat or Round Characters."

On that final Sunday I will express an idea of E.M. Forster in his book Aspects of the Novel (1927). Forster describes authors using two kinds of characters as portrayed in a work of literature. Flat characters are two-dimensional and are rather straightforward. They rarely change throughout a novel or short story. On the other hand, a round character is far more multifaceted and undergoes growth throughout the story—often surprising readers. Round characters are the main object of our attention; flat characters are like grooms at a wedding—mostly used as props.

The point I want to make about the relative simplicity of the Five Practices is simply that when we actually engage these practices, then we take them from being “flat” theological principles to “round” ones. This is the point of the gospel. When we move our actions from flat to round gospel principles then we produce fruit.


R Schnase said...

I like your use of Forster here. This is helpful. Blessings on you and your congregation during the sermon series. Yours in Christ, RSchnase

Debbie said...

Dr. Mosser, I learn from both types of sermons. But, I have to say that I wasn't challenged very much with this lecture series. I think you might have mentioned that this book was suggested to you from the worship or some other committee. If so, maybe the sermon series has to come from a book that strongly speaks to you personally and not a suggestion from someone else.

Post a Comment

Powered by Blogger