19 February 2002

How do you prepare a sermon, Prof. Adam?

Well, first I have to blog. And to do a really good blog, I have to visit all my friends’ blogs. The blogs I can find are all very interesting, but not everyone has blogged yet today. I’ll have to come back later.

After I blog, I have to find out what the readings are: Numbers 11:16-17, 24-30 and John 4:31-38. The Numbers lesson is the story of Eldad and Medad who prophesied without a license; the gospel lesson narrates the disciples’ return to Jesus after his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, in which passage the disciples, as usual, come off seeming persistently dense.

Well, having found out what the lessons are, it’s time to go back and check on the late bloggers. David Weinberger must have slept late today. Dave Rogers is in LA and evidently isn’t as assiduous as Doc Searls; he always blogs late. Then I check a few blogs I’ve never seen before, because blogging is an adventure, and it’s important to broaden one’s horizons. This will all, I am sure, contribute significantly to any eventual sermon.

Now, before I begin really writing a sermon, I need to know what the hook will be. Just as when one writes a song, when writing a sermon one wants something in a sermon that’ll stick in the imagination, something that’ll get caught in there and bring the premise of the sermon back into people’s minds at intervals. So I have to figure out what the hook is for this sermon.

Dave Rogers still hasn’t posted, by the way, so I’ll think about my writing/voice/authenticity blog. I’ll post a headline for it, then get back to the sermon.

I’m thinking that the hook might involve the improbable names of the prophets in the Numbers lessons: Eldad and Medad. If I hit those names just right, then the point of the homily will come back to people when they hear those names. On the other hand, how often do you hear the names Eldad and Medad? Better blog some more and come up with a better hook.

One way to get a good hook is just by listening to good music. “Good music,” for homiletical purposes, generally falls into two categories: artfully written (say, Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, Michelle Shocked, XTC, for starters) or profoundly heartfelt (vast proportions of gospel music, especially older and more obscure, as the Rev. I. B. Ware singing “Better Stop Drinkin’ Shine”) or both (older Springsteen). Let the music teach me how to work a simple premise for a few minutes, bringing in a twist, an incongruity, reinforcing the premise, bringing the refrain back at the right time. Now I’m ready to get back to the sermon — after I blog a little.

The “Dad brothers” hook is beginning to sound better as it gets later tonight. The alternative would be a sermon on the clueless disciples, whose denseness serves different literary functions in each of the gospels (in Mark, they’re just flops; in Matthew, they’re tragically uncomprehending; in Luke their flaws make them utterly human; in John, people misunderstand Jesus grotesquely in order to set up Jesus’ teaching). (That’s an oversimplification of my quick take on this theme — don’t hold me to it.) I think we go with the Dad brothers, though, as an instance of the Spirit acting apart from the institutional constraints of the ways God’s people organize themselves.

But before I flesh that out into a sermon, why isn’t Blogger publishing?

Voice and Presence

So Margaret says, “JOHO knows Daddy.” And Pippa says, “Does he really know Daddy? Or does he just know him on the Web?” Still got some work to do on the home front.

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