LYRIC OF THE DAY/LITURGICAL CONFESSION 20.11.11 from Humble Me by Norah Jones


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I am uncomfortable about this blog entry. I hate talking about me. My built in inferiority complex is always fearing the backlash! Anyway, here goes. Yesterday morning I shared how this week’s sermon, and for me every sermon, came together. Some said they were fascinated by the process, so I thought I’d share it. It is not a blue print for sermon preparation, no way. It is the way that God has led me to prepare. It is how he has used who I am and what my life, personality and life journey bring to the art of sermon preparation. For others I imagine that it is a desk, in an office with commentaries cluttering up the surrounds. I imagine it is two or three hours every morning locked in that office sculpting the shape or exegesis. That is good. Yet, I have found that, though some weeks that is where I end up, most weeks it is rather more fluid and flowing. This week, as I was creating the sermon, I was reading Daniel Lanois’ biography Soul Mining; A Musical Life and he was sharing how songs and records come together in a room full of splintered steel where you simply respond to whatever is thrown at you. That about sums up the muse of this week’s sermon.

I begin, at the start of the week, with the foundational steel girder of the Scriptures. In Fitzroy, my colleague Jonathan and myself, are working our way through Hosea and this week I was in Chapter 6. I read that chapter a few times and then Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase The Message which is oftentimes, though not all the time, helpful. So, as I drive around and walk about I am pondering and waiting for the splintered steel to fly. Then maybe the next day I will read some commentaries. I shared the humour of my Facebook status last Thursday, “I am on the iPad reading Calvin.” There will be some splintered steel flying there and I respond to context, historical situation and maybe cross referencing other Scriptures that commentators point me to.

The real art, or as I believe the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is the splintered steel of the things going on around my life as I ponder the Scripture. That gives it contemporary relevance, context and impact. Pastoral visits, listening to other speakers, some news item, blog, Facebook status, movie, TV show or very often for me songs will spin around my head and soul and I’ll grab what sticks. This week I had a song that Dave Thompson, one of our songwriters in Fitzroy, had written about Hosea 6. This splinter had been flying about my head for some weeks and I was sure it was going to hit. During this entire process I will be typing the Scriptures, a commentator's thought, a quotation or an illustration onto the lap top page. Late in the week, often times as late as Saturday night, I will see what the splinters have formed and ask God help for final shape. Dave’s song splinter ended up giving me the title and the punch line, Dave’s paraphrase of this Scripture, “Let the mercy I show, be the worship I bring to you.” It is a lovely poetic line that skips off the tongue as you sing it BUT for weeks it has been pummelling my soul with its prophetic power.

Yesterday’s sermon (Nov 20, 2011) was the perfect coming together. When I got to look down the splinters noted I found not only a perfectly built sermon but perhaps the sermon that most defines my own Christian life. It was thirty years of spiritual journey right there on the screen. I was almost frightened to preach it, I sensed it so holy. In that room full of splinters I had given control of the shape to the higher power, I simply responded.  Never before had God given me such a potent message, laid it out so clearly and given so much Scriptural proof texts and all so ordered. This was the song, the record, the poem, the novel of the preacher. You might listen and wonder what I am talking about! That is also the vulnerable place of the artist or preacher. When it goes public it may not be reviewed as that good. I guess for the preacher the hope is that the God who inspired it will use it in whatever way he chooses. The sermon itself then becomes a flying splinter of steel...



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