The Weird Delight of Preaching
A Preaching Cohort for Ministry Leaders in Western North Carolina
Facilitated by: Jason Byassee, Butler Chair in Homiletics at the Vancouver School of Theology and elder in the WNCC
“Grandfather was a fire and brimstone preacher
But there are things the homilies and hymns won’t teach ya”
--Aaron Burr in Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton
“The preached word of God is the word of God”—Huldrych Zwingli
The cohort will meet via Zoom on the second Monday of each month from February to September (check the calendar below) and no meeting in July, from 1-4 pm EST starting Feb 8, 2021.
At least once a week the preacher stands to address the congregation. What does the preacher say? How? On what sources do they draw—whether ancient or contemporary, sacred or secular, communal or personal? What’s the goal here? How do we tell if the preacher has done well and how we might improve?
Once we are in the thicket of parish life, these questions are difficult to answer. The Sabbath seems to come back around every three days. There is little time or space for critical reflection. Courses like these are gifts. They provide the critical space and time (and deadlines!) necessary to reflect on the task and practice and internal goods of preaching. Some courses are narrow: you dive deeply into a very specific set of tasks and materials. Homiletics is broader than that. Here you draw on all you have learned in your life and seminary education and set a trajectory for yourself—a learning agenda—for years to come. The goal is not just one’s own erudition. It is the church’s edification.
Cost: $50/participant The expectation will be that each participant commits to all 7 sessions.
- To seed a lifelong love of preaching. The value of this course can only rightly be assessed as you look back on decades of preaching at the end of your life. This one will be hard to evaluate this year!
- To engage the church’s historical wisdom on preaching. The sermon completes the hermeneutical hand-off: we heed God’s voice from the scriptures, we listen to the wisdom of tradition, we discern a specific word for this gathered body, and we bless and challenge and love the people God sends. Students will practice preaching from the first inkling of an idea to our leadership of the church’s mission.
- To grow into your own voice as a preacher. I assume that God has gifted you in unique ways for the church’s edification and the world’s blessing. By what authority do you preach? And to what end for this specific gathering of people? Preaching is never context-less—your engagement with yourself and your people must be made plain.
- To learn the techniques and practices appropriate to your entering into objectives 2-4. The technique is not of primary importance, but it is important, and we each have to find our own rhythm as preachers.
- To honor one another as we engage with one another’s work and humbly learn how we can be better at our work of giving words to God’s Word. We will read, listen to, watch, and respond to one another’s sermons as part of our learning.
Books to buy
- Byassee, Jason Surprised by Jesus Again (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2019)
- Davis, Ellen with Austin McIver Dennis, The Luminous Word (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016)
- Florer-Bixler, Melissa Fire by Night: Finding God in the Pages of the Old Testament (Herald, 2019)
To read (Will be distributed by email)
- St. Augustine On Christian Teaching. Trans. R.H.P. Green (Oxford World Classics, 2008). Book I.
- Campbell, Chuck “Speaking the Truth in Love” from Journal for Preachers 28 (Lent, 2005).
- Pope Francis Chapter III of Evangelii Gaudium pp. 34-47 of http://archeparchy.ca/wcm-docs/docs/EG_English.pdf
- Rutledge, Fleming. The introduction to And God Spoke to Abraham: Preaching from the Old Testament, by Fleming Rutledge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011), 1-26.
- ___. Not Ashamed of the Gospel: Sermons from Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 1-23.
A sample of sermon exemplars
- Nadia Bolz-Weber Easter sermon at Red Rocks
- Nadia Bolz-Weber's sermon for Rachel Held Evans’ funeral
- Michael Curry's sermon from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA)
- Michael Curry's, more famous, royal wedding sermon
- Bonnie Scott sermon in Goodson Chapel at Duke Divinity School, April 27, 2011. Rev. Scott is a United Methodist minister in Maryland.
- Peter Storey's sermon at the memorial service of Elizabeth Storey, February 1 2015 at Wesley Methodist Church, Simon’s Town South Africa (transcript will be provided)
- Jeremy Troxler, “Saturday Night at the River Jabbok,” from North Carolina Festival for Homiletics 2015 (manuscript will be provided).
- Will Willimon eulogy for Keith Brodie in Duke Chapel, December 16, 2016
- Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove “Construction Dust” at Boone UMC March 2014
Feb 8- Introduction: On being more than a sermon critic
- Read in advance: Pope Francis, Augustine
March 8- The garden: Reading the bible for preaching
- Read in advance: Byassee
April 12- The life of the physician and the craft of healing
- Read in advance: Florer-Bixler
May 10- Run to the weird: “Difficult” parts of scripture
- Read in advance: two Rutledge chapters
June 14- God’s voice and ours
- Read in advance: Foreword and essays in Ellen Davis
Aug 9- A counter-culture for the common good
- Read in advance: Campbell, OT sermons in Ellen Davis
Sept 13- All will be well: preaching and pastoral care
- Read in advance: NT sermons in Ellen Davis