Preaching Collectively

circle

[Image Description: Eight figures of people, cut from paper, are holding hands in a circle, and a light is emerging from inside the circle. They are positioned toward the right side of the image which also has an orange background.]

I preach frequently in a variety of congregations on Sunday mornings, and I believe this wholeheartedly:

My words are part of the sermon, but the sermon is not my words. The sermon is not equated with what I say or what I have committed to paper. The sermon is a moment — a revelatory moment we all share together as we gather around a sacred text.

And recently — often, during a charge and benediction — I have found myself sharing this with people. The thoughts that emerged in our minds… the things we decided to do… the people we decided to contact… the action we decided to take… the prayer that arose… the desire that revealed itself… the calling that became a bit more clear… These are all the sermon collectively. When we lean into these, and when we act on them, we are all preaching the sermon. And we ourselves are preachers of the sermon.

I didn’t say this on this last particular Sunday. But I also didn’t have to say it. We all felt it.

After the sermon, we had a time to share joys and concerns collectively before a member of the congregation led everyone in prayer. People spoke so deeply from the heart. I’ll keep all of those details confidential, of course. But one person shared a number of serious needs in the lives of those close to her. Then she began to speak lovingly and passionately about the need to treat people struggling with mental illnesses with more compassion and tangible care. And it moved me so deeply.

She was preaching the sermon.

After the service, about ten people stayed with her, surrounding her and praying for her and the people she mentioned. It was a circle of compassion — so beautiful.

“This is church being the church,” I thought.

They were preaching the sermon.

They were certainly preaching to me because I won’t soon forget that moment. I’ll continue to remember it, take it in, and act on it.

Renee Roederer

 

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