Sunday, December 10, 2006

Preaching Postscript

This sermon did not feel as good as I anticipated it would in the preaching. I think it's because, in the presence of the congregation, I became very aware of the content seeming to imply that I agree with the notion found in scripture and in the biblical cultural context, that children are a blessing from God, and lack of children are a sign of God's disfavor. In a sermon like this, when you are trying to give the feel of a character (fictional,of course, only based on some bare bones facts found in scripture), you can put words in his mouth that you really don't embrace as part of your belief system. In this case, I certainly don't believe that those who are not able to give birth are in any way "lacking," or are not blessed by God (though I know it might be tempting in that situation to feel that way).

So, as I preached, I fretted over the possibility that there might be childless folks in the congregation who might think that's what I believe, or how I think God works. So I ended up doing some improvising that probably weakened the sermon.

Grrrr. Hate that feeling: what if the words I'm preaching hurt someone?


Anonymous said...

My Dear Mags,

First of all, I thought the sermon was lovely -- moving, authentic, interesting, genuine. True to what those characters probably felt and experienced.

Second, keep in mind that you said nothing out of malice, nothing out of any intent to harm. It's not as if you said to them "so you, too, if childless, are forsaken by God!"

It is true, I suppose, that some of them might have felt pain in hearing the story. But I should think that it is a pain already inside of them, the hurt and disappointment of wanting a child yet being unable to conceive. You did not create that hurt -- at worst, you may have triggered it.

God in your story is (to borrow a phrase from Wolpe), a "healer of shattered hearts" -- giving a gift to Zachariah and Sarah. The fact that God chooses to heal some hearts and not others is a mystery (and a rather uncomfortable one, I should think). But let that mystery not keep us from celebrating when that healing does occur.

Finally, if at the end of the day, you still feel some regret, try not to be too hard on yourself. We are imperfect. We mess up at times. We learn. We are human.

Magdalene6127 said...

Steve, thanks for this. Another friend has commented privately, and thanks to both of you I think I can relax...

I'd love to be all things to all people. Such a bad idea though.