Reflection Masthead
Issue 156 - Intentional Preaching - July 2017
In this issue we share some reflections on preaching, primarily arising from The Notre Dame 2017 Preaching Conference Jan attended last week. The John S. Marten Program in Homiletics theme, "To Set the Earth on Fire: Effective Catholic Preaching" sought to re-energize the art and skill of preaching, and thus to inspire the people of God ever more effectively.
The Fire 
          One would expect, worshiping in a grand Basilica during a conference on preaching, to hear a homily worthy of archiving along side those of St. Ambrose. Yet, it was the flowers and candles and revisited places on the Notre Dame campus which intentionally spoke to me. The power of place: a dorm handicap ramp where I encountered a woman in 2015 whose kind words soothed my anxious soul; the warm light from hundreds of candles each revealing a sought favor at the Lourdes Grotto; a giant scarlet hibiscus reflecting the week's preaching conference--overwhelming beauty, a few noticeable holes, and pregnant buds soon to open. 
          Yet how simple are the Lord's familiar promises: "You will be blessed." (Jn 13:17); "You will find life." (Mt 10:39); "The door will be opened to you." (Lk 11:10) Preachers continue to seek ways to make God's words a meaningful encounter, especially in weekend sermons. Sunday after Sunday we listen for a word that will set the Earth on fire or at least rekindle the fire in our hearts or warm our souls. 
          The John S. Marten Program in Homiletics examined "what does effectiveness mean?" Each presentation and workshop did that. The most memorable presentations were: "Preaching in the Mother Tongue - Calming the Deep Fires inside our Listeners" (Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI); "Telling Stories, Making Points" (Dr. John (Jack) Shea); "Making a Scene in the Pulpit: Vivid Preaching for Visual Learners" (Dr. Alyce McKenzie); "Igniting the Flame of Intentional Listeners: How to Set Ablaze the Preaching Encounter by Transforming Your Assembly into Intentional Listeners" (Fr. Jeff Nicolas & Dr. Sharon Schuhmann) and "Preaching as Playwriting" (Fr. Peter John Cameron, OP)." Videos of the presentations soon will be uploaded to YouTube and you (especially our preaching subscribers) are invited view them, and to step into the pulpit--and set the Earth on fire! As St. Francis said, "Preach always - sometimes use words."                --by Jan 

A Bad Reputation
We preachers have a bad reputation.  Sometimes we deserve it.
Earlier this month, Jan and I were out of town and worshiped at a local church. The pastor read the gospel for the day: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me ... and you will  find rest for your souls." The loud, staccato way he barked out the words in all caps made it sound like he was issuing a command, rather than offering a gracious promise.
I was reminded of the German verb,  abkanzeln , which means to scold someone harshly, to really tell someone off. The derivation is enlightening: the prefix  ab- means "from," while  Kanzel is the German word for pulpit. To really tell someone off is to "give it to them from the pulpit."
See what I mean about a bad reputation? In an old Dennis the Menace cartoon, Dennis and his father are leaving church one Sunday, and as they walk down the church steps, Dennis looks up and asks his father, "See. How do you like it when someone bawls  you out in public?"
How have we so badly missed the mark? The gospel is good news. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "A truly evangelical sermon must be like offering a child a beautiful red apple or holding out a glass of water to a thirsty man and asking: Wouldn't you like it?"*
I pray that we will hear good news, and not simply get a scolding, every time we go to church.
                                                                                              -- by Bill
*Bonhoeffer, Gessamelten Schriften, 4:51, as quoted in Clyde E. Fant, Bonhoeffer: Worldly Preaching (New York: Nelson, 1975), 16.

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Copyright (c) 2017 Soul Windows Ministries


Bill Howden and Jan Davis
Soul Windows Ministries



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