Sunday, March 21, 2010

Preacher as Host

This Lent I've had the unusual situation of preaching only one Sunday of the whole Lenten season. Two of the Sundays were scheduled for the intern. Then we hosted two missionaries as guest preachers. This left me only one Sunday of preaching between Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday.*

The first preacher, John Mix, blogs here:

He is the chaplain for the Dane County Jail in Madison, and he uses art as part of his pastoral care strategy. An awesome, gentle soul.

The second, Steven Dreher, blogs here:

He is a pilot and missionary with Lutheran Association of Missionaries and Pilots, serving remote areas of Northern Canada, especially native communities inaccessible by regular roads.

Each of their stories was completely fascinating, and it was spectacular to host them as preachers and speakers. By the time the second guest had visited, however, I was having a bit of guilt about giving up the pulpit so often to other preachers, and not preaching the Word of God myself more regularly.

However, my guilt is assuaged by considering the following possibilities:

1) I've been preaching at EKLC for over five years now, and the congregation may enjoy respites from my voice in order to hear others.

2) You need to schedule missionaries when they are available to visit. They were available now.

3) Preachers can also perform their ministry well by being good hosts, and stewarding the Word of God by inviting others to preach.

4) Inviting missionaries to preach places the message of Christ in a wider purview, offers a hint of the cosmic, global ministry of Jesus Christ, and helps the congregation think about and imagine the Word of God going into all sorts of places they typically don't go (like jail and remote Canada).

So this has me pondering the theological implications of serving as host rather than preacher in a congregation. Can the pastor appropriately think of him or herself as emcee? Minister of Word, Sacrament, and community? We often call it the ministry of Word (focusing on the task of preaching and biblical interpretation), and sacrament (focusing on presiding at table and stewarding the mysteries of God), but what about being the emcee, the voice up front, the host, who makes sure everyone has a seat, that guests are treated well, etc. Has this role or function been addressed in practical theology?

* (Lest you think that meant no preaching, I still had three Wednesday sermons, plus prepping special music for Lenten mid-week services, including musical covers of Garth Brooks, Gillian Welch, and Willie Nelson).

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