Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ten sure-fire ways to be an awesome* preacher

1. ALWAYS preach at least fifteen minutes. Don't believe any of this nonsense that no one has ever complained that a sermon was too short. Just remember, short sermons are sermonettes, and sermonettes make Christianettes. We don't need any more Christianettes running around. California has enough.

2. Make sure you include references to every passage of scripture read that day. After all, some committee on lectionary reform met for hours and hours to painstakingly select each of those precious passages of Holy Writ to be read and heard by the holy people of God (those who aren't making their grocery lists during the Epistle reading, anyway). So give each section of scripture its full due.

3. Make innocuous references to long-dead theologians. The older and more incomprehensible the name, the better. Seven or eight per sermon can't be too many. All those names make sure your congregation knows a) that your seminary degree is a GRADUATE degree and b) that you've read TONS of books. And if what those particular theologians have to say isn't particularly relevant to the text or message of the scripture reading, not to worry. After all, you aren't including them for relevance; you're including them to make yourself look smart!

4. Include the pronoun "I" with frequency. For example, "When I pray five times a day..." Or, "On the few occasions I've erred and strayed from God's ways..." You are a priest. Make sure you reiterate to your flock just how holy and wonderfully YOU are. Some may call these jaunts into personal reflections unnecessary. They're just jealous they can't tell so many amazing stories about themselves. Share away. Extra points for sharing charming and heart-warming stories about your friends and family's wonderfulness, too.

5. Bring up conversations and interactions with parishioners without getting permission first. Recounting an event with a current or even past parishioner in a sermon has NEVER blown up in anyone's face. Ever. People loved to be surprised when they hear themselves being talked about in a public forum. Also, don't forget to use thinly-veiled references so everyone will know who you're really talking about, even if you've changed the names.

6. Preach at least three sermons in one. People absolutely love the buy-one-get-one-free deals they see in stores. So why not have a buy-one-hear-two-free deal with sermons? What a great idea. You've got at least fifteen minutes (twenty or more if you're really preaching the word of God) to fill, so repeat points ad naseum, repeat yourself, and follow those rabbit trails to see where they go. Doing this will keep a congregation guessing as to what you're going to do next, and they will love you for the mentally challenging sermon that invites them to think, "What the f*&# is s/he preaching about now?"

7. Forget the theology that the Holy Eucharist is the most important part of the Episcopal liturgy. It's the preaching, because that's where it can be all about you. Jesus preached way more than he did that Lord's Supper bit. That's what the Bible says, anyway. Right?

8. Some may call it plagiarism, but a really good preacher recognizes a time saving device when s/he sees it. Many, many people have written amazing reflections on passages of scripture. I mean, just mountains of stuff. If it's a personal story about themselves, just change the names and make it about you. If it's a particularly stunning take on a passage, just say you thought of it. Most of these people are dead, anyway, so they won't care. It's only a crime if you get caught...

9. Don't prepare. Believe that the Holy Spirit will give you the words at the right time. What some call rambling, we in church work call waiting for the Spirit to come through. And remember, you have plenty of time to preach. At least twenty-five minutes.

10. Preach way too fast to make sure you get all your words in. People will complain that they can't understand you. Just ignore the Debbie Downers. All the really holy people will be able to understand you perfectly. And they'll have at least thirty minutes to get used to your speaking pace.

*awesome meaning you'll be run out of the pulpit with fire and pitchforks.

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