One of the problems with preaching is the congregation, as ministers sometimes say. Quite reasonably they want us clergy to say something worth listening to! And of course, they want some kind of encouragement in their Christian discipleship. This is the really hard part. For in my congregations there has always been a mix of those who implicitly and naively think history was a Genesis is written. There have also always been thoroughly twentieth century people to whom that view is beyond understanding.
Most of us are strange mixtures of these. There was one man who was of hard-line conservative Presbyterian stock who would have been at home in a plain brick, non singing ferociously Calvinistic chapel. He baptised his children at home in the bath. And he joined the Uniting Church because he read Jack Spong and found truth there. I'm not really sure that I'm much less of a bunch of contradictions.
So how do we preach to our self and this glorious, inspiring, small minded, courageous and fearful bunch of people?
I think we often err on the side of the conservatives. They tend to be less forgiving, for one thing.... and more likely to rip into you, or complain to presbytery. But its not really them we give into. We give into ourselves... our own faith fears. If we were unafraid of what might be happening to God, we would not worry about Emus and their ilk. The congregation is not really the problem, hard as they may make me work. I am the problem.
So I have set myself a task. I want to learn to preach 'post Spong,' as it were. Not to alienate those who still have faith in a God I can no longer conceive of, but to try and bring the sense of the Mystery of God to people much more in my own language. That's where the sermons will come from for a while, at least.
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