What you find here is the blog version of a book–ish (sort of thing) scratched out on tables in diners and the insides of gum wrappers with sharpies and pen knives–on envelopes and the backsides of bus benches–which made it sort of hard to read the whole thing. So, it is collected here. Scroll to the bottom to start chapter 1. This is not an ongoing blog, but contains ongoing….um,
April 14, 2010
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April 23, 2010
As the sometimes Russell Rathbun, I will be reading from my new book, Midrash on the Juanitos at the Virginia Street Church hosted by Common Good Books May 5th at 7:30pm–and I would really like it if you would come.
April 14, 2010
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July 10, 2008
Dog In A Raincoat
Why so stingy with the challenging, confronting and requiring some period of self-reflection? Isn’t this what should go on every week? How can anyone preach a sermon based on the Bible that is not challenging and confronting and requiring self-reflection? If ones beliefs are re-enforced I don’t think the preacher could be reading the Bible very carefully. That kind of Pastoral sermon can only come from running ones eyes over the selected text while inserting some vacuous long held interpretation first encountered in Sunday School (which by the way no one should have pleasant memories of—it should be a scary and exciting, amazingly alive and developmentally inappropriate—but not pleasant).
I sermon should always contain in it elements of destabilization. Any truth claim made should contain the seeds of that which will deconstruct its self. After all this is God we are talking about—any understanding we may come to will eventually be undone.
I do not think I am alone in wanting to be destabilized, undone and overturned by the One who comes, who loves and with the assurance that I am liked by that One even as I am fully known.
Why would someone want to have his or her beliefs reinforced? That is only pretending to want to know God. It ceases to be anything like God that one continues to preach about or believe in.
Why does a dog need a raincoat? A dog has this amazing fur that has adapted over eons that actually protect it and keeps it just fine in the rain. Someone who puts a rain coat on a dog obviously invests a lot emotionally in that dog, but doesn’t seem to know that much about dogs—our understanding of God must be destabilized by the text, by the sermon or else we are just leading god around by a leash looking silly with an outfit that matches ours. Maybe it is best for that dog to bite the fool.
June 26, 2008
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As I was peering out the front window from behind the living room curtain (something I do more times a day than I want to admit—you never know who could be around—and that white panel van is still parked across the street three houses down) I saw a man, thin, thinning hair swept back but falling, 50’s in a rain coat. It was raining, so this is not remarkable, but he was walking his dog (presumably his), a medium size whitish one (no knower of dog breeds me) and the dog was wearing a matching rain coat.
This, of course, made me think of destabilization as it relates to preaching. Reading the text and preaching. I remember a preaching professor, in seminary (or was it an instructional DVD Our Senior Pastor insistently suggested I watch?) laying out a sort of formula for how often one should preach a Prophetic and as apposed to a Pastoral sermon. I think the ratio was at the most 1 in 12. One Prophetic sermon for every twelve Pastoral sermon. I think this pro fessor defined a Prophetic sermon as one that, “challenges, confronts and requires of the congregation, some period of self examination.” A Pastor sermons, “encourages, comforts and reinforces deeply held beliefs.”
Encourages what? What does the 48 weeks out of a year sermon encourage? In what way and for what reason does it comfort? And, truly, most disturbingly, what are the deeply held beliefs does it reinforce?
May 30, 2008
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In conclusion, is only the conclusion of the rants that I have collected over the years, written on various book covers and cast off materials. I haven’t felt free to write in such an obsessive way for a while. I have been trying to be less rant-y and more “emotionally and spiritually healthy.”
I have been under a doctor’s care. Well, it says doctor on his door and business card and the skin on the wall, but he is a physiologist. He does, however, seem to have the power to prescribe some medications…so. Anyway this was all part of the terms of my returning to work at the church—my re-employment (it does seem like a ploy). Before I re-entered (re-mount, re-turn to) the pulpit I had to under go a month long inpatient program and participate in weekly sessions with Dr. Percy. As a result I have been convinced of the necessity of actually accepting the world as it is and making a healthy choice to participate in it with out critique, to embrace it and its ways. “Because, after all,” Dr. Percy is fond of saying, “If the rest of the world needs to change for you to feel O.K. your chances don’t look good—easier to just change yourself.”
Yes. Easier? Well, I have been working at it. I have developed a strategy. Whenever I start to feel disconnected from this culture, when I look around and vacuous ness is all I see—I find the nearest line I can get in to buy something. Whether Cinnabon or powerball, Joel Osteen or Hot Pockets, what ever is closet, what ever line I see first. By the time I am done with the transaction, I feel a little better. At least I am reminded of what it means to be a part of something bigger than me.
Lately, however, this has not been working as well. My posting all those old rantings about preaching is, I think, a symptom of a gradual slipping, slippage, sliddage….
May 4, 2008
How to Preach Real, Relevant, Relational and Revolutionary Sermons
In Conclusion: Don’t Tell People What to Do
Don’t tell people what to do. Tell people what the Gospel says. Tell People that God loves them. God likes them. Point to Jesus.
Preach the Good News you find in the text that fate has handed you by the way of the Lectionary. Preach the questions you have found in the text, whether you have found the answers or not. Embody the text. Use everything in your bag of tricks to communicate the Good News in a way that requires people to listen. Preach for Wednesday. It doesn’t matter if people leave the church on Sunday wonder what the hell you are talking about—it is better then them not remembering anything you said. Preach so it sticks in their mind, heart, craw, gizzard, liver, spleen. That way their liver keeps working it out until on Wednesday out of the blue some epiphany pushes it’s way into the conscious self and ah ha can happen. Wednesday is a good day for ah ha.
What ever you do, do not apply it to people’s lives. Let them do that. They are as smart as you are. God some how was able to reveal God’s self to you. You were some how able to hear that God loved you in such a profound way that you were filled with a desire to love God back. If God could do this with you, chances are God can do this with other people. If you could hear the great revelation of God’s Good News, chances are other people will be able to.
When you preach create the space for revelation. Strive to create the possibility of epiphany. Preaching is an act of worship. Worship is not a set of instructions given to the people by the preacher.
Don’t tell the people what to do. Let them figure it out.
Preach grace. Let them apply it to their lives. Grace stays with people longer than instructions do.