The Substance of Faith

The Substance of Faith

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Quotes on Preaching

  • Once when Laurence Chaderton, Master of Immanuel College, Cambridge, the town’s preacher for a half a century, had preached for only two hours, the disappointed congregation cried out, ‘For God’s sake, man, go on.  We beg you, go on.'”                                                                      Daniel Boorstin in The Creators, p. 313


  • In many respects, an ignorant clergy, however pous it may be, is worse than none at all.  The more the empty head glows and burns, the more hollow and thin and dry it grows. “The knowledge of the priest, said St, Francis DeSalles, “is the eighth sacrament of the Church.”                 Phillips Brooks in Lectures on Preaching, p. 45


  • Just as the world came forth from the Holy, our words either create or kill.  There are no neutral words or stories.  There are words and stories that glorify, evil, war, violence, hatred, nationalism, racism, oppression, injustice, or insensitivity toward the suffering of others; such words must be shunner and exiled.  There are stories worth telling over and over again and stories that should be heard put into the air, and it is in the telling that the difference is learned.                          Megan McKenna in Send My Roots Rain, p. 283


  • Much of our preaching is like delivering lectures on medicine to sick people.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Phillips Brooks,  source unknown


  • When people asked Wesley why thousands came to hear him preach, he responded, “I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn.”                                                                                                                                                                  Leonard Sweet in Quantum Spirituality, p. 82  ( I used this quote in a sermon once and people laughed.  Perhaps one has to preach to understand.)


  • The purpose of preaching is not to make people see reasons, but visions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Halford Luccock from  In The Minister’s Workshop, p. 112   (Worth finding and buying, despite its age.)


  • In practice, many preachers have tried to resolve the dilemma by resorting to language that substitutes explanation for experience.  They teach from the pulpit, explaining that grace means this and salvation means that, that people of faith have traditionally done this but not that.  They clarify biblical texts, distilling their main points and suggesting appropriate congregational responses to them.  In doing so they do valuable work, orienting their listeners to the wisdom of the church, but the result is often beliefs and not belief – mental assent to the information that has been given them and not a vital experience of the living God.                                                                                                                                    Gail O’Day and Thomas Long in Listening to the Word, p. 209
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