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Blog

Some of my written words, thoughts, and ramblings. 

Thoughts on Preaching: Say Less, Preach More

As a former actor and artist, I have found preaching to be an artistic craft. The sermon is an art form, actually, and delivering a sermon is a performance art.

That isn’t to say preaching is simply a show or a performance. Instead, it is an ancient form of communication that is deep, rich, and beautiful. It is the interweaving of words, thoughts, ideas, truths, stories, and silence that is powerful and passionate.

Preaching is also mysterious. Somehow, as one stands up to speak about the God of Love, the Divine One, the God of Love transforms hearts and souls of those listening. As we preachers craft our sermons, it is a chance to create, play, partner with the Divine. It is beautiful

Lately, I’ve observed that some sermons are really long. Like an hour. As I listen to these sermons, I find myself wondering if sometimes the longer the sermon the less is said.

Can anyone relate to this? Half way through the 50 minute sermon, you start wondering if with all this talking if anything good is being said.

And so I’ve come to wonder if the more one preaches, the less is one’s sermon. The longer one preaches, the less one says.

The longer one preaches and the more one says definitely means the more the listener forgets.

Most congregants can’t remember your three to five points or that clever acronym you created. Most say that congregants remember about 20% of a sermon. So, roughly a few minutes of what you say or one point.

Because of this, I think every sermon should only have one point. And say that one point more than 20% of your sermon so your people remember.

Some traditions are better at this than others. I think of the Catholic and Episcopal services I have attended where the sermons can be quite profound and leave me wanting more.

Recently, one of the most powerful sermons I have ever heard was 5 minutes and 8 seconds long. It was delivered by Fr. Richard Rhor and I can’t get it out of my head. You can listen to it here.

I think it’s best that we preach who Jesus is and what God has done through Jesus. If we don’t do this, we don’t have a sermon. If we don’t announce Good News for all people, if we don’t announce the Gospel, than we don’t have a sermon and we’re not preaching. We are just teaching some good advice or a moral idea.

So, my advice for us preachers, is let’s say less and perhaps our sermons will preach more.

 

Nathan Albert
Even the Ice Sings Out

Sometimes a song is all that can be said. Sometimes music is better than words.

And sometimes, a song and music can be heard in unlikely ways.

Recently, I was on a three-day silence and solitude retreat. I am a part of a cohort of ministry leaders and clergy who gather every three months for such a retreat. On a beautiful afternoon with four hours of silence and solitude, I decided to walk around a lake near our retreat house. I made my way around this almost three-mile lake, looking for deer that roam the area, searching for animal tracks, finding the remnants of acorns, listening for the engulfing noises of silence, and watching all sorts of birds fly and chirp around me.

At one point, as I was crossing a bridge I realized that part of the lake beneath me was still frozen. Making my way to one side of the bridge, I saw small currents and waves being made in the lake as the wind picked up speed. These small waves started pushing up against the edge of the ice. Because of the warmer weather, though, the ice was melting and breaking. As these waves began to push against this ice, it made this spectacular sound. It sounded like a wind chime.

I stopped to listen and thoroughly enjoyed this surprising music. It was as if the ice was singing; as if the ice was an orchestra.

Tonight, I was reading my son the bedtime story, Giraffes Can’t Dance. It’s a cute book about Gerald the Giraffe who is quite clumsy on his feet. His village has a yearly dance celebration, but everyone makes fun of Gerald because he’s so clumsy and cannot dance. Sulking alone in the forest, he meets a cricket who tells him to find the music around him and let his body respond. The cricket says, ‘everything make music if you really want it to’ and goes on to show him how wind, trees, birds, and bugs make a melodic tune each evening. Not to spoil the ending of this bedtime story, but Gerald finds the music around him and becomes the best dancer in the village.

And so I was reminded that ‘everything makes music if you really want it to.’ It’s true. Even the ice can sing out. And, it’s just as beautiful as a full orchestra.

Nathan Albert
A Fresh Start and Clean Slate

Life has brought a new season, which has resulted in a new blog and a new website. Ah, the perks. And by perks I mean paying for a new website and trying my best to figure out how to be all designer and IT-like. 

As of right now, I'm not smart enough to figure out how to transfer my old blogs to this site. So, maybe that just means it is time for a new one. It's been a long time since I've posted a blog. Much of that is due to busyness of life, having a toddler, and working for a church. Sometimes people don't like what you have written, and sometimes those people are in your church. So, it's time for a clean slate; a fresh start.

A fresh start is where I currently find myself. My wife and I recently transitioned out of our roles serving a church. I was there five and half years, while my wife was there ten years. Staff restructuring and budget cuts made it painfully obvious we would be leaving our positions. So, both unemployed, it's time for a fresh start and a clean slate. 

We are entering a season of rest, renewal, and hope. It comes with a few vacations, a new workout routine, a desire to start up my podcast again, and perhaps back to writing a blog or two. I trimmed my beard, got my hairs cut, and am ready for what is next. And somewhere, somehow, we are expectant that we will meet God, doors will open, and our lives in ministry will flourish.

Here's to a new blog, a new website, a clean slate, and a fresh start. 

 

Nathan Albert