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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Vatican recipe: Spicier sermons

Cayenne (Photo by Andre Karwath)

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi proved his own point by making an eye-opening plea during a recent French conference.  According to the AFP, this “top cultural official” of the Vatican “urged Catholic priests not to shy away from spicing up their preaching.”  The AFP reported on his advising that one way to do this is to “not be afraid of letting the ‘scandal’ contained in the Bible erupt from the pulpit.”  The Cardinal then went on to praise Twitter for forcing the delivery of “something primal.”

Bet those conference attendees sat up just a little bit straighter after hearing these “eruptions” from their Vatican speaker…

Priests who may be uncomfortable with the sordid details of David and Bathsheba, take heart!  According to Calvin Miller, author of The Seven Axioms of Sermon Delivery, there are many other ways to spice up a sermon besides airing the biblical laundry.  He warns, however, that from the very beginning, sermon listeners have their thumbs “on the channel surfers of their intent.”  Will they tune into what the preacher is saying, or will they instead stare at the dancing beam of sunlight three rows down?

Here are some of Calvin’s Miller’s surefire methods for casting each and every pulpit pearl of wisdom before willing ears:  Make a good non-verbal first impression (by mirroring the style of the congregation); Don’t try to force people’s attention by endlessly repeating “Listen up!”;  Get up from behind the pulpit at least some of the time (but don’t pace nervously); Attend to the lighting (seeing is believing), as well as to the audio system (while not tripping over the floor cords).

Last, but not first:  Avoid peppering your sermon with such mundane phrases as “you know” - if you truly want the spicier content to prevail.


Copyright November 5, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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