Poetry and Sermon Writing

Most sermons I preached while in seminary sounded like theology papers.   I regret this.  Sermons like the one I preached on the theology of the Lord’s Supper for Open Door had lots of head-knowledge, but little power to transform the heart.  Now we’re doing Sunday evening house-church services for The Upper Room (7:30pm at my house, email me for directions), and I’m having to rethink how I preach, not only making it less academic, but struggling to find a way to talk “with” rather than “at” a bunch of people in my living room.  

As a creative writing major in college, I used to write a lot of poetry.  Most poems I wrote started with a line or phrase that then inspired the rest of the poem.  For example, a phrase would come to me like “spin swirling sounds” and I would then spin it out into a longer poem with imagery and alliteration.  As the poem grew, the sound and art of that first line guided all the other steps in writing.

This week I tried to write my homily in the same way.  I still did the exegesis and all that fun stuff, but rather than write an academic lecture-style sermon, I’m attempting to be more image-driven.  The images are coming from Isaiah 55:10-11 and John 7:37-39, focusing on water as it provides for new growth and life.  There’s still historical information in it, but it constantly turns back to the imagery of water and new growth.  I hope to post an mp3 or transcript after tomorrow.


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