27 March 2013

The Genesis of a Sermon

I don't know if you've ever wondered how a sermon comes about, but I'm going to tell you anyway.  At least, I'll tell you how this sermon came about.  Actually, it's how this year's entire Triduum (Three Days) series came about.

There we were this past Sunday, almost done with our Palm and Passion reading of The Cry of the Whole Congregation, a dramatic reading of the passion according to Luke as envisioned by noted Lutheran author Walter Wangerin, Jr.  We'd walked into Jerusalem, singing All Glory, Laud and Honor.  We'd been to the Last Supper, and we'd gone to dark Gethsemane.  Judas' betrayal, Pilate's equivocating, Herod's duplicity, Peter's denial - all come and gone.  Jesus commended his spirit into the Father's hands.  Powerful, powerful stuff.  Our congregation has mentioned several times how much they appreciated this week's worship series.  But within all of that was the one moment that started the sermon snowball rolling for me this week.  It was here:
PILATE: Now there was a man named Joseph from the town of Arimathea, a righteous man, one looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid. 
Did you see it?  You maybe didn't.  That's how it often happens for me.  These scriptures, this Word of God which has been speaking to me all my life, reached out of the book and grabbed me by my goatee and started shaking me about (I don't have any hair on my head, so God grabs where God can get hold of me).  

Joseph of Arimathea, looking for the kingdom of God, found Jesus hanging on the cross.  This is the kingdom of God.

One moment in the middle of worship, a word came to me in a way it never has before.  After ten years of doing this work, I've learned to pay attention when that happens, to let it go where it needs to go because it isn't me doing the work at that moment, it's the Spirit.  Four days later, I'm elbows deep in a sermon series for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter:  

Maundy Thursday:  The Kingdom of God - Founded in Glorious Love
Good Friday:  The Kingdom of God - Revealed Upon the Cross of Jesus
Easter Sunday:  The Kingdom of God - Raised Into New Life with Christ

I'm still working it all out.  I'll spend quite a few more hours hunched over my computer typing away, and likely the end result won't look entirely like I envision it at the moment.  But this is the thrill of the preaching office.  This is how sermons get started.  This is how the Word of God gets loose in the world.  This is why, some Sundays, the pulpit feels like a prize bull in the chute, and I, poor little white-knuckled preacher that I am, have to settle my grip and hold on for dear life.  

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