November 29th, 2016
Often when we talk about preaching the conversation usually focuses on preaching as an art, craft, function, task or job to be done. So I ask the question as I begin this reflection on preaching if we only look at preaching this way does it give us full picture of preaching? The answer to this question might vary, depending on its context, and the aspect of preaching being considered. However, as I reflect on preaching I would like to consider an all-encompassing understanding of preaching based on a spirituality of preaching, so my answer to the question is no! Yes, preaching is an art, a craft and a task to be learned but it is also much more.A question was asked of a preacher once. “How long did it take to prepare the sermon?” The response was, “a lifetime!” The preacher’s answer, in this short example, strikes at the heart of preaching and what it means to be a preacher. Yes, it is a performance, a craft, a task to be done, but preaching is also a charism, call, vocation gifted by Spirit of God. It is a way of life, a spirituality one is immersed in, a relationship with God that one shares.
In considering preaching as a charism, call and vocation, I turn to a good friend of mind, St. Paul the Apostle, for little understanding. In his first letter to the Corinthians St. Paul talks about the diversity of gifts that God gives for the common good of the community, the Body of Christ. “Now there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12: 4-7). St. Paul sets in motion an understanding of how God’s grace, God’s Spirit, is at work in the community. He reminds us that it is not we who do the work but that it is done by the grace of God—that what is required of us is to allow the Spirit to work within us.
Preaching, like teaching, healing, prophecy, wisdom, faith, hope, love and the other charisms, are all gifts from God through the Spirit. In talking about biblical call or vocation stories, Donald Senior indicates that the notion of vocation or call in its most fundamental meaning is “not defined by any specific role or function but is something greater, with God as its author and life as its subject.” His understanding of vocation and call is helpful to this reflection on the spirituality of preaching. God calls us to a relationship of friendship. Every Christian, every preacher needs to recall the words of Jesus as found in John’s gospel: remember, “you did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (Jn 15:16).
This call and vocation of friendship with God is given to everyone; however, it is made specific by a charism, a gift of God’s Spirit that we are entrusted with, called preaching. While talking about the understanding of charism in terms of religious life, Margaret Brennan says that “the Spirit of God is inviting us to expand our understanding and enter into deeper theological reflection about how we are called to be.” Brennan goes on to say that charism is “memory and power that comes from keeping the story alive and moving in our deepest desires and our future hopes.” What all of this discussion on call, vocation and charism means is that the spirituality of preaching begins with a vocation, a call by God. This call is enlivened by the specific charism of preaching, a gift of the Spirit that enables the preacher to remember and retell the story of faith.
The preacher must always remember that this is first a call. As Jesus reminded his friends in John’s gospel: “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (Jn 15: 16). Yet every call means there needs to be a response. The one called needs to make a choice. Each friend called by Jesus had to choose to accept the call, the vocation to follow Jesus heart and soul, sharing in the mission of redemption through a life that is transformed through a relationship with God grounded in friendship, or as Jesus put it when he called his friends “to go and bear fruit that will remain” (Jn 15: 16).
Through this web site and Thoughts Preaching section I would like to explore the call of the preacher to be a Friend of God. As time goes on I will post my thoughts, my reflections, my ideas about preaching in the hope they will help others, called and to be called to enliven their friendship with God and truly proclaim the Good News in spirit, truth, hope and love!
Why not join me for the journey...
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Fr. Paul R. Fagan, C.P. "Friend of God"
Thoughts about Preaching the Good News and the Preacher as "Friend of God."