Sunday, August 07, 2005

Preaching a Bad Sermon

I didn't preach well today. Most of the time, I feel satisfied that I have done justice to my calling as preacher. After marriage, preaching is my greatest joy in life. I am blessed to engage deeply with Scripture each week, and wrestle enough with it to distinguish law & gospel and discern how to preach the Word of God in the congregation.

But what do you do when you feel you've failed at preaching the Word of God clearly? Of course, I still trust that the Spirit can and does make use of faulty speech and disorganized thoughts. You can't and shouldn't make this a presupposition of preaching. We are still called to do our best and most faithful preaching each week even though it is the Spirit that enlivens faith in those who hear, and not the prowess of our preaching.

But I never know what to do after a sermon is over and I believe I've preached poorly. My gut reaction- I want to make a simple announcement, prior to the dismissal, where I simply acknowledge that the sermon wasn't my best work, but come back next week and it will be better. Funny.

Even more humorous, maybe, is that the sermon was on the ways we fail to have faith, but the Word of God makes something new out of us- in the case of Elijah, takes a scared weak man huddling in a cave and makes him into a powerful prophet, in the case of Peter takes a stumbling and sinking foolhard and makes him the rock on which the church is built. May the Lord do thus and so with even my poor words.


  1. Two obvious suggestions, Clint:

    First, listen to what you're saying. Trust the Holy Spirit to do something -- maybe not everything, of course.

    Second, preside at the mass. The Gospel is visually proclaimed and received in complement to the Gospel orally proclaimed and aurally received.

    Cheer up. Even Jesus left them scratching their heads.


  2. Thanks, Dwight. Kind words. I'm not actually depressed, it's just one of those things you like to reflect on in order to learn.

    Very true, the mass. Often used as a cop out for a good sermon. Nevertheless, 'tis true.

  3. Clint,

    Five loaves. Two fish. Completely insufficient, laughably inadequate. But in the hands of Jesus, unbelievably abundant, filling and satisfying. So you just tossed a couple of cold fish from the pulpit? Can't Jesus do amazing things?

    I wouldn't make an announcement or say anything. I don't want to set a tone of "sermons are something to be rated." I'm not saying "the laity just need to sit there and appreciate what we give them!", but in a world where everything is preference-driven, and anyone can be "voted off the island" if they're not popular enough, why even bring it up?

    And finally, sez who it was a bad sermon? When you preach a "good" one, do you not give glory to God's Holy Spirit? Perhaps, just perhaps, you spoke what the Spirit intended. And if you then tell people "it was bad," what does that do to the one who desperately needed to hear what the Spirit gave you to speak?

    It's a freakin' mystery. But keep on sowing the seed generously. And strive always to greater excellence in your calling. Never start to think you've "arrived."