Friday, January 20, 2012

Preaching during a crisis of faith

Lectionary preaching has often been celebrated for its formative power, its ecumenical integrity and its ability to work against the hubris of the preacher. However, there are occasional times in the lives of preachers and christian communities when experiences of faith crisis seem to call for other texts and themes than those which are offered by the lectionary.

In the current issue of Liturgy, Jocelyn Carita Thornton writes about just such a period of faith crisis, and her experience of preaching her own and her congregation’s way through it.

I tried to put into practice what I had gleaned from the resources cited above, and attempted to ‘‘preach my way through’’ my faith crisis over a period of several months. Using the suggestions for crisis preaching given by Jeter, I also incorporated lament that evolved into celebration in these sermons. My goal was to give hope to others in faith crisis, moving my listeners and myself from crisis to healing and wholeness. These messages drew their life from ‘‘desperation texts’’ in the Gospels: Mark 7:24–30, Mark 2:1–12, Mark 10:46–52, and so on.

Each of these pericopes depicts a person moving from brokenness and neediness to wholeness and restoration through the gracious word=act of Jesus Christ. A lay committee in my congregation met with me before and after each crisis-related sermon to plan and evaluate. One important lesson we learned is that a sound sermon structure along with celebration and lament will help listeners to find strength and regain confidence in the trustworthiness of God’s Word. Lament has often been undervalued in contemporary preaching, but it is part of a larger journey toward healing, wholeness, and joy.

What are your thoughts about departing from the lectionary in order to meet the needs of congregations experiencing faith crisis?

Jocelyn Carita Thornton (2012): "Preaching through a Faith Crisis," Liturgy, 27:1, 19-27.

Jocelyn Carita Thornton is a church planter and pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church.

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