Twitter Feed Preaching Style

Len Sweet says in his newest book on the topic of preaching Giving Blood that he has had to learn 7 different preaching styles throughout his ministry career. In seminary, he was coached to never say “you, we, us” in a sermon. Imagine that!

Preaching, Sweet says, is a dialogue instead of a monologue. Most sermons we hear today, however, are monologues or “speeching” as Doug Pagitt says. However, a monologue can still be a dialogue if the communicator can convince his/her audience that he/she “gets” them. And according to Malcom Gladwell, that verdict is settled within the first several seconds of every presentation.

I enjoy preaching. Not because I get to stand in front of crowds and tell them what I think. (After all of this time, it is still nerve-racking to do) I think that I like the preparation of the sermon as much as the delivery. I enjoy learning. I’m curious, by nature. So when I get the chance to preach, the content I encounter is like a circus for my curiosity tastebuds.

Putting the pile of content together for a presentation is a tricky task. I taught a section of preaching while I was a Visiting Professor at Sterling College. We used a helpful book Choosing to Preach by Ken Anderson which diagnosed 5 preaching styles with different goals for the sermon. The students in the class asked what I do for sermon delivery, so I created the “Skillen Sermon” outline (humble, I know). I usually look for the 3 I’s (Idea, Image, Implication) of a sermon. This style seeks to reach out to the intuitive and sensory persons within the crowd. (Hat tip to Myers-Briggs) Implication is better than application, in my opinion. That is a subject for another time.

As I was preparing for the message this Sunday, I realized that my sermon style is beginning to resemble a Twitter feed, with several things stitched together into a whole presentation.

In one message I have:

A Nun

A reference to Back to the Future

Sunflower Seeds and Gatorade

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

A Spiderman 2 reference

Short Sleeves and Door Jams

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

And a Robert Farrar Capon Quotation

These items are stitched together like a Twitter feed that (hopefully) will unearth a big idea about Jesus.

The Reason: The amount of time we give to our Facebook and Twitter feeds has rewired the way that we see our world and the way we take in content. Test it out. Open your Facebook page right now and notice the mosaic of items that captures your attention and provokes you to share, like, comment, and engage.

The sermon, then, is used to help draw our eyes to the Christ in the common that is found in a thousand different locations all around us. As the old hymn “This is My Father’s World” suggests, “This is my Father’s world / He shines in all things fair.” The sermon is not just a time to hear something new, but also to train us to see the God among us in every hour outside of worship services.

This adjustment in sermon style has caught me completely off guard, it wasn’t something that I intended. As the old saying goes, “Sometimes we make tools and at other times our tools make us.”


Meister Eckhart & Spirituality

“Spirituality is not to be learned in flight from the world, by fleeing from things to a place of solitude; rather we must learn to maintain an inner solitude regardless of where we are or whom we are with. We must learn to penetrate things, and find God there.”


The Meaning of Easter, (NT Wright Quotation)

I’m reading through Simply Jesus by NT Wright, again, and I wanted to capture this quotation. So, I’m putting it on the blog so I won’t lose it, again.

“Here, then, is the message of Easter, or at least the beginning of that message. The resurrection of Jesus doesn’t mean, ‘It’s all right. We’re going to heaven now.’ No, the life of heaven has been born on this earth. It doesn’t mean, ‘So there is a life after death.’ Well, there is, but Easter says much, much more than that. It speaks of a life that is neither ghostly nor unreal, but solid and definite and practical. The Easter stories come at the end of the four gospels, but they are not about an ‘end.’ They are about a beginning. The beginning of God’s new world. The beginning of the kingdom. God is now in charge, on earth as in heaven. And God’s ‘being-in-charge’ is focused on Jesus himself being king and Lord. The title on the cross was true after all. The resurrection proves it.” (194-195)


Pleasantly Surprised

So, my driver’s license is not expired but has an old address on it and I’m tired of carrying around the piece of paper that explains why I should not get any grief for it, but it still provokes suspicious looks from people who inspect my driver’s license. So, I thought that I’d go get a new license to rectify the situation.

I’ve been known to show up a bit early to things and to get a bit anxious on these types of occasions. I’m always worried that I will forget something important and be “that guy” to hold up the line… you know, the average people-pleasing instincts. So, I showed up early and was the 4th person in line.

They quickly called my number and I briskly walked up to the attendant. After catching my breath from short sprint I greeted the person over the counter.

An aside: I think that the employees of tag offices and driver’s license centers have insane jobs. They are hectic busy for nearly their entire shift. They are dealing with legal documents and absent-minded and irritable people, all day. I don’t blame them for being south of zesty while on the job.

My attendant was amazing! She had cool hipster glasses and started out the conversation with “How is your day going so far?” (It was 7am, at this point) This was a far cry from what I expected, something like, “License and proof of address…. ppppplease.” (Said in a miraculously monotone, tired voice)

It caught me off-guard! It cracked me open! I was no longer on an anxious errand, but in a… wait for it… conversation with another human being… with a person who has a soul. A life animated by the presence of God… and it was glorious.

She asked me what I did for a living and said kind things about my occupation as a pastor. We joked about the nature of one of the required questions I had to answer, “are you legally present in the United States?” Haha! I am still giggling about that! #grammar

Needless to say, I left the office going, “Can I do this again tomorrow?”

 

I wonder if that is the reaction that others have when they interact with us in either meaningful or menial experiences? Are we salt that brings flavor to others? Are we light that illuminates even the mundane moments of Tuesday mornings?


Nat’l Coffee Day

Today is National Coffee Day, also known as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” So, I am at Starbucks for the first few hours of the day to get things done.

I sat next to a couple of guys having a “small group” study. These guys were Christians. I do this thing where I sit next to Christians talking at coffee shops so I can eavesdrop. (The first step is confessing that I have a problem, right?)

I noticed that these two guys had a third person in their group last week that wasn’t in attendance this week. No big deal, people skip all of the time. (Maybe he saw what he thought were snowflakes falling and decided not to show up?) Well, at the end of their conversation, I discovered why he wasn’t there… they didn’t tell him that they were meeting.

One guy said, “Well, I am more mature spiritually than where he is and I want to go deeper than where he wants to go.” Of course this was said with a “pinch” of superiority and entitlement.

The other said, “He’s a good guy and all, but I don’t particularly enjoy his insights from the Bible.”

All the while, the barista working the drive-thru window was calling most customers by name AND was asking some of them questions about how this one’s baby is doing and how another one likes her new job.

There was laughter, joy, hospitality, freedom, friendship at one place in the coffeehouse and there was cold, ego-centric, unkind, and “unneighborly” behavior at the other.

Green aprons “1” – Small group bible study “0”

Take an extra second and include someone today.


Along with You, the Whole Way

Matthew 9:18-26 was the NT reading for Common Prayer this morning. It is a parallel passage of one of my favorite parts of Mark, (Mark 5:21-43). Matthew’s version is shorter and has some differences from Mark’s account.

In Matthew’s account, Jarius (Mark 5:22), a synagogue ruler’s daughter is already dead (v.18) while she is alive, but sick in Mark’s account, (“My little daughter is dying… put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” – v.23). She will die before Jesus gets there, but Jesus is with Jarius before she dies, after she dies, and then after Jesus raises her from the dead in the end.

As Jesus is going to Jarius’ house, a woman with internal bleeding meets him, in both Matthew and Mark’s account. In Mark’s account, however, we get to hear the woman’s thoughts, the discussion between Jesus and his disciples about “who touched him,” the woman’s admission, and the woman’s re-intergration into the community. Matthew’s version is shorter; it doesn’t have the discussion between Jesus and the disciples, nor the woman’s admission. Jesus simply sees the woman and and sends her away whole.

Matthew’s content shows Jesus jumping in and fixing issues that were full-grown. Mark seems to portray these occasions as developing and Jesus walking alongside in the midst of them, not just a solution in the story.

Both of these ideas that Matthew and Mark portray are important; God is able to help us in times of hardship and God is with us in the midst of them.

May each of us discover God’s nearness in whatever situation with inhabit today.


Take Your Mat and Go Home

Matthew 9:1-8 was the NT reading from my common prayer today and I spent some meaningful time in the story. It is one of my favorite in the Gospels, its parallel is in Mark 2, as well.

Jesus arrives “home” (which is Capernaum, according to Mark 2:1) where he is encounters a paralyzed man, carried by some friends. Jesus heals the paralyzed man in the name of “your sins are forgiven.” (v.2)

Some of the “scorekeepers” do not like Jesus’ assumption that he could forgive sins and so, after a short interchange between them, Jesus turns back to the paralyzed man and tells him to “take up his mat and go home.” (v.6)

The man was healed, he went home, and the crowd marveled at the event.

Theological issues and categories abound in this passage. Leaving those to the side for a bit, I focused upon this command of Jesus to “go home.”

It was common for individuals with aliments to have to leave their homes in Jesus’ culture. We see it in other parts of the Gospels, there was a profound obsession with the idea of sins and impairments being linked together in a mysterious whole. That perhaps sickness or infirmity were material consequences of sin. Communities have always been about finding ways to remove people they think are problems, right?

In many cases, Jews were asked to leave the community when sick and, only after the priest inspected and approved their “recovery” could they re-enter the community, to return home. The aliment’s absence was “cure” and the re-entry to community was “healing.” Perhaps this is why Jesus is so obsessed with the woman with the issue of bleeding in Mark 5 identifying herself and calling her “daughter.” Not only was her issue “cured” but her status with her community is “healed.”

The apparent link that Jesus makes between sins and healing in this passage set off such a radical display of God’s power. Jesus is not a priest and this healing was in the countryside, not in Jerusalem. No wonder the religious leaders were angry and the crowds amazed. Jesus was breaking out holiness in the frontier and that was good news.

The idea of “home” is vital for us as much as it was for the paralyzed man. Home is a place of identity, hope, and community. All of us need a home. Home is a theme for conversion in John’s Gospel. One of the elements of conversion that Scot McKnight mentions is the “socialization of salvation” finding our place among the people of God.

That is my prayer for all of us. That our trust in the faithfulness of Jesus resembles home, that Christianity doesn’t become neither a new bag full of anxieties, nor a way to prove that we are more excellent than others. Because, that sure doesn’t feel like home, to me.


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