Thursday, September 19, 2013

Holiness in the Kingdom: A Sermon

I have been hesitant to put a link to this - partly out of false modesty, partly out of genuine embarrassment, and partly because I am unsure that a sermon remains a sermon when it is abstracted from its particular moment in time - but for anyone interested, here is my first "sermon", available at my home church's website.

I have only listened to the first couple of minutes, but it seems that I say "ummm" a lot. The sermon is also being pulled in a few different directions, but that's just the way my mind works unfortunately. Another year of training will hopefully sort some of that out.

I chose to preach on Luke 13:10-17 only to the extent that I chose to preach on a text from the lectionary reading for that Sunday. I was going to try and weave all four passages together into one brilliant piece of oration, but after about 10 minutes I realised why nobody really does that, and why I wasn't going to be the person to finally pull it off.

The sermon itself it not so much expository as it is theological reflection, though I did carry out the basic hermeneutical tasks as best I could in my preparation. Like Hauerwas, I am suspicious of preachers giving the congregation "the meaning of the text", because when Christians get a grip on the meaning of a text that usually doesn't end well for anybody. But more than that, the goal of a sermon ought to be an encounter with Christ beyond the text. This, after all, is the function of Scripture itself. To put my aim into wishy-washy postmodern jargon, then, with this sermon I tried to give the Gospel story the space in which to breathe.

I am thankful for the opportunity I was given to preach by the church that has been my home since I moved to Galway in the early 90's. There were offers before this which I declined (agent fees, third party ownership, excessive, celebrity-esque demands that could not be met (was a bowl of red Skittles too much to ask?)), but the patience shown by the leadership eventually wore me down!

I may never preach another sermon again. I may preach dozens more. But for better or worse, I will not forget this one.

The Text

10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. 
14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” 
15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” 
17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

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