Someone told me once, I think in a preaching class, that what folks hear (when we preach) is based 5% on our actual words, 10% on our tone of voice, 20% on our facial expressions... and 65% on who we are. That what people listen for is not a brilliant string of inspiring words... but for a person of character and integrity.
I get that. A few weeks ago we had a guest preacher at St Andrew Pres, and I disagreed with about half of what he said about the Bible, BUT still felt preached-to, and well. He's short, and at one point (a total sidetrack) he went across the room talking about how people think size matters, and degrees matter, and that you can measure people up somehow, and he just opened his arms at the front of the room saying "here i am! I'm just me! and that's okay." It had to be imbedded in the structure of a sermon, of course, but that one moment for me was his sermon. I was preached to -- because his short but steady, faithful, funny self just spoke to my short self with authority and confidence.
Today I heard a sermon of a wholly different sort, and with which I can find nothing to disagree. Dr. Ellen Davis of Duke Divinity School (author of Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: an Agrarian Reading of the Bible) preached on the story of the Israelites and their Manna. She talked about the problem with the Hebrew people (while in Egypt) learning to trust the deceptive abundance of Empire. She marveled at how the very first thing that comes up, in how to create a new nation, is how to eat. She said Israel and we heard America. She said "the Biblical story condemns us" and our foolishly grasping at the false prosperity of agriculture and economy based on scarcity and fear instead of abundance and Sabbath rest. EVERYTHING SHE SAID WAS AMAZING.
But I felt the most powerfully preached-to when at the end of the service she blessed us, in Hebrew and English. She had authority and power as she fluently recited the Hebrew words, and as she stood there with hands lifted high. The sermon I heard today was actually just me saying to myself "I am in the presence of a woman of formidable academic credentials who BELIEVES and proclaims and preaches that we need to reform our agricultural system, for a host of reasons including spiritual ones."
AND she has hope.
yes. let's do this. here we go!