Friday, August 26, 2011

Why sermons bore us


Why sermons bore us

Like other teachers of preaching, I listen to a lot of sermons, sometimes a dozen in a single day. I have noticed that this fact rarely evokes covetous sighs from my faculty colleagues, many of whom imagine a daily regimen of multiple homilies as akin to endless trips to the periodontist.

Contrary to expectations, though, I find that helping students preach for the first time carries the excitement of teaching skydiving to beginners. There is always that telltale widening of the eyes as they stand in the open bay of the pulpit feeling the wind whip by, staring into the depths below and suddenly becoming aware of what they are about to do as you tap them on the shoulder and say, "Go!"

Classroom adventures notwithstanding, for many people the words boredom and sermon are a proper pair, like horse and carriage. Pulpit search committees almost always top their wish lists with "good preacher" and report that their searches lead them through dry and waterless places. Last year, Monsignor Mariano Crociata, secretary-general of the Italian Bishops' Conference, made a splash on the pages of the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano when he slammed dull preachers. "Too often," he complained, "sermons are just boring mush."

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