Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reading and Preaching

My wife rightly pointed out to me that most of the books I read last year were of the more practical kind, and noticeably lacking was theology/spirituality/biblical studies and fiction.

It’s not that I don’t like fiction. I just find it hard to read. But unlike most people it takes me LONGER to read fiction than non-fiction. I can plow through a couple non-fiction books in a week, but can spend almost a month on a fiction. I can’t get through as many fiction books as I can non-fiction.

But then again, volume isn’t really the point, is it?

It’s also not that I don’t like theology. Most of my bookshelf is theology. I used to read systematic theology just for grins because I found it so enveloping. Reading theology was like praying for me. As the rabbis say, “An hour of study is as an hour of prayer.”

But over the past four years or so I’ve noticed my brain changing. Where I would drown myself in Douglas Coupland’s books, lately, I’ve been getting giddy as a school-boy while reading about organizational systems. Where I used to soak in Douglas John Hall’s cruciform theology, now I get almost sexual gratification over studying newer ecclesiastical administrative models.

But I have noticed the quality of my preaching slipping. I think that’s because I’ve strayed from the imaginative use of words that were my homiletical building blocks. It’s not that I was Hemmingway or Harry Emerson Fosdick, but I did try to see the biblical texts in fresh ways, and struggled to use words that hadn’t been lying around the church for the last 150 years. I wanted to dust off old words and put a new shine on them.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe my preaching has been fine and it’s me with the problem.

But when I preach, the listener I’m most trying to reach is me. After all, I need good news as much as anyone. Maybe even more.

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