How Do You Hear?
During my summer reading, I came across a question I’ve been waiting to share:
How would you listen to a sermon differently if you could win a $10,000 prize for repeating it accurately?
Before you get too excited, no, I’m not offering prizes, and no, I don’t believe being able to repeat the sermon word-for-word is the point. I DO hope your mind wanders – to your own experiences and to how what’s being said comforts or confronts you.
The point I want to make with this question is that preaching is not a one-way street. I have often said that congregations get the sermon they deserve. In
the years when I did quite a bit of itinerate preaching, I could tell right away whether or not a congregation knew good preaching. If it did, people paid attention,
looked at me, smiled and nodded (or frowned and shook their heads). You don’t have to yell out, “Preach it, sister” to give the preacher feedback – although congregations who do really understand their responsibility! Listening to a sermon is not a passive act but an active role. Sermons are a cocreation of a preacher and congregation working together.
While it’s a lovely ego boost when people exit church saying, “Great sermon” or “It felt like you were speaking directly to me”, specifics are more helpful: “I felt
like you were speaking directly to me when you reminded us not to be judgemental.” “Great sermon.” I’ve been feeling kind of useless and you told me that even my small contributions are important.” Yes, that depth of feedback is a bit risky. Yet, it is a way of participating in the preaching.
What do you do with the sermon after church? I grew up in a family where it was regularly a discussion starter at Sunday dinner (served mid-day). Do you chat about it in the car on the way home or over lunch? Or is it forgotten when you walk out the door? Do you think about it during the week? Do you ever wish you could screw up your courage to ask, “I’m wondering what you meant when you said, …” or even tougher, “I didn’t agree with what you said about …”?
The Christian Development Committee is eager to provide more opportunities for adult study. The past two summers, we’ve offered an evening to listen to a speaker (via DVD) and to reflect on some related questions. You’re invited to stay after church on the last Sunday of each month this fall. October 26 will be led by the Transition Team – remember how much fun Heritage Café was? September 28 and November 30 will be Discuss and Nibble – a chance to discuss the morning’s
sermon over some munchies – from 11:20 – 12:05 in McIntyre Hall. My hope is that you’ll do the talking, and I’ll have a chance to listen and learn what was meaningful for you.
How Do You Hear?