Sermon with story, personality and a journey

I was enjoying an article in SundayLife about two Singaporean poets. One of them is Aaron Lee, a Facebook friend and a Christian elder in a Brethren Church. It was an interesting interview but a line he quoted from his mentor caught my attention. He talked about some verses he had captured on his cellphone, lines inspired by daily life and social commentary that never got birthed as poems. He recalled how his mentor had given him some advice long ago. Aaron said: “She told me: ‘It’s got to have a story, a personality, so people can go on this journey with you.‘” The sentence held me captive and I was reminded of the several books that talked about the importance of the sermon being structured like a story, a narrative, a homiletical plot. It was such a good reminder as I tend towards the tired three pointer didactic sermon. Perhaps I should look for texts and themes that can be put on a story board and bring the congregation from tension to truth, from problem to promise, from conflict to resolution, from suspense to conclusion.  I have to think and order things more like a short film director than like a teacher or textbook author.

Lord help me. It’s so easy for me to fall back into that didactic three points sermon structure. It’s a rut I so easily fall into. Set me in front of a story board, and if there is no plot let there be no sermon. Amen.

Where I prepare my sermon

Beautiful floor to ceiling windows: let there be light
Beautiful floor to ceiling windows: let there be light

The Trinity Theological College Library is probably the most beautiful library in a theological college. I love its design. The large glass windows that bring in natural light. The courtyard in between the library and the students rooms. It gives me a sense of the vastness of God and of knowledge yet unknown to us who are creatures redeemed by God. The smell of books is stimulating. There are corners here and there where one can find some privacy and a catnap if necessary. There are three floors of books and spaces for study. The wireless there makes it possible for us to research via the internet too, or even respond to an urgent email.

My favorite quiet corner
My favorite quiet corner

More and more I find myself drawn to this space. Used to prepare the sermon in the church office but the constant interruptions and distractions would leave me frustrated at times. Furthermore there are no windows and I feel less creative in that place. The home was for many years a better place for sermon preparation. However in this recent year and a half  I have found Trinity Theological library a haven for a soul pregnant with a sermon to deliver. I thank God I live in the west. I thank God I am alumni. I thank God for the library. It’s my favorite place in the whole college. It’s a sacred workshop where many a sermon was crafted and honed, and many prayers prayed.

Dr Eugene Peterson on what he looks for in a sermon

Eugene Peterson was for many years James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College. He wrote many books on spirituality and pastoring, and he is probably most well known for The Message, his translation of the Bible in the language of today. Now retired from full-time teaching, Eugene has something significant to say about preaching. It should not be about what we should be doing, but what Christ has already done- “kerygma” or proclamation.