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By Dan Baumgartner on
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Aug 31 in Musings
Despite the fact that one can earn a graduate degree or PhD in Homiletics, preaching is more art than science. It is more mystery than formula. It is more Holy Spirit lighting up scripture than an entertaining public speaker. I’ve preached regularly, nearly weekly, for about 20 years now. I’ve figured out a few things over time, but mostly I’m still in awe over the mystery part. How is it that God can speak to the heart of a long-time Christian who has studied the bible for decades, a friend living on the street, a seminary student, a visitor from another country, a skeptical agnostic, a person whose life is falling apart, and the preacher himself (or herself) all at the same time?  It can’t be done, humanly speaking. No preacher could know even a small percentage of the situations and concerns people bring into the sanctuary on Sunday morning, let alone speak to them all. Yet somehow, when we cling to the scripture and actively wonder what God might bring to us...the miracle happens again. And again. And again.
Frederick Buechner once imagined it like this:
“The preacher pulls the little cord that turns on the lectern light and deals out his note cards like a riverboat gambler. The stakes have never been higher. Two minutes from now he may have lost his listeners completely to their own thoughts, but at this minute he has them in the palm of his hand. The silence in the shabby church is deafening because everybody is listening to it. Everybody is listening including even himself. Everybody knows the kind of things he has told them before and not told them, but who knows what this time, out of silence, he will tell them?
Let him tell them the truth.”

So what will sermons look like this fall at Hollywood Presbyterian?   As far as I know (given the above musings on mystery!), there will be three major topics between now and the end of the year. Starting next week, we will spend four weeks “Facing Our Fears.”  Most of our lives are affected by things we are afraid of, even if we don’t know it. We’ll try to identify a handful of these things and see how scripture encourages us to deal with them.  Later in the fall, we’ll spend five weeks looking at texts dealing with being the community of Jesus in a series called “And the Truth Will Make You...Odd.”  That’s part of a quote often attributed to Flannery O’Connor which underscores how living a simple Jesus life might cause us to stand out in our culture- for better or worse.  And finally, we will pay attention to some special words in the Gospel via “John’s Christmas Vocabulary.”          
Who knows how God will speak to all of us and each of us through the scripture along the way?  I’m excited, because I know God WILL speak. And hopefully we will have the posture that the Old Testament priest Eli taught to the boy Samuel: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
See you soon,
              Pastor Dan

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