Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Sermons That Don't Work

To the Editor of Episcopal Life:

Thank you for the article on “Sermons that Work.” (Episcopal Life July, 2008) After reading the article and some of the sermons on the web site, I now know why the preaching in the Episcopal Church is so bad. The so-called “sermons that work” are humorless, tedious and lacking in passion. The writers of the sermons apparently do not know that our nation is at war, our economy in the doldrums and our environment on fire. There are few if any calls for action and no personal illustrations or human stories. They are logical, clear and cold.

The article quotes one of the sermon writers who brags that she is delighted to weave together themes from the three lessons: the Old Testament, the Epistle and the Gospel. When a preacher presents her congregation with multiple Biblical references, she confuses and wearies her listeners. I have had three years of seminary Biblical studies and get lost trying to figure out what the preacher is talking about. The poor layman with minimal Biblical knowledge simply tunes out.

I do hope “sermons that work” will offer preaching that is compelling, prophetic and relevant to our life and times.


Blogger Chris said...

You tell 'em, Robert! When I preach, I keep it to 7 minutes or so, home in on one aspect of the readings that speaks to me, work that, and then close with some kind of call to action, even if it's only thought action.

Homiletics is a lost art in today's seminaries, both RC and Anglican.

Oh, and what do they mean by "work"?
--The sermon didn't put anyone to sleep?
--The sermon didn't rile anyone up?
--The sermon used all three readings in an efficient way?
--The homilist wasn't pelted with rotten tomatoes when s/he ended?
--The homilist retold the essence of all three readings and thus got 5 minutes out of his or her 10 minutes just from redaction?

Oh, well, prophecy is dangerous and hard, most preachers would rather go for pap.

I was at a family funeral last week and the RC deacon who took the service read a poem at the graveside that was probably Edgar A. Guest's work, it was so trite and silly about death. And he was an older man, probably trained 30 years ago or so, so should have known better.

My eulogy, on the other hand, was 7 or 8 minutes, tops, got right to the point, and everyone who mentioned it to me thought it was extremely good.

1:06 PM  

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