Preaching is a big part of my job.  I probably spend a good 10 hours a week on worship and sermon prep.

            Most of my preaching is pretty direct.  I have an idea of what I want to say, usually something that’s come out of my Bible study preparing for worship and preaching.  Then I try to find a way to say it, clearly and directly.  But not always.

            I went to college in Minnesota and after four years in a city not too far from the prairie, I left for seminary on the Pacific coast feeling like a part of me is connected to Minnesota.  When I (finally) heard Garrison Keillor share his “News from Lake Wobegon” on A Prairie Home Companion, not only did I feel like he was talking about a place I knew well, I often felt like I was listening to a sermon.  But not an ordinary sermon.  He was telling a story, perhaps even a parable (especially if we don’t think of parables as allegories).  I thought, “I’d like to do a sermon one day that’s like Keillor’s “News from Lake Wobegon.”

            Well, a few years ago, I decided to tell a story instead of preaching a sermon.  I decided to tell a story about my “home town” of “Mount William, New Hampshire.  It’s a fictitious town and the stories, for the most part, never happened.  But I’m fond of saying, about stories like that, “This story is true, even though it never happened.”

            I read a magazine article a couple weeks ago about literature and awards.  The writer made a comment about sermons not receiving literary awards.  The article went on to say that there is a difference between a typical sermon and a story.  A sermon is shaped like an “O” and a story is shaped like a “C.”  A sermon has all the pieces; a story is missing a piece that the listener gets to fill in.

            I’ve come back several times to Mount William and shared more news from my “home town” and will continue to do so.  Are they sermons?  I’ll let you be the judge.

Copyright © 2009 Jeffrey Spencer