A Preacher's Memoir

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It has been a bit too long since I posted the last blog. Sorry. Wintry weather, a nagging cough and cold limited my energy and deteriorated my mood, according to One Who Knows.

In my last blog I wrote briefly about a couple of books of interest, perhaps, to more than preachers. I’m not sure that will be the case with this one, but I want to draw your attention to a dandy new little preaching—or preacher’s—memoir by our colleague Stan Mast, pastor of La Grave CRC in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the last 20 years. (Where did those years go?!)

With a delightful sense of irony and reality, Stan calls his 110 page book Someday You’ll Be a Good Preacher. He thought about that himself, even before some crass folks actually said it to him. The way Stan stakes out the career-long tension between his own nagging thoughts and the few spoken (and probably many unspoken) comments make this book a compelling read.

It is surely possible to read this in one sitting. If you are tempted to do so--DON’T! I preferred to dally in one chapter every day as a companion to my morning devotions. That way I could read right into the splendidly self-opened mind of a colleague who recounts years of mostly preaching twice a Sunday, celebrating its joys, negotiating its pitfalls, twists and turns with elan, humour and gratitude.

What he learned along the way has become Stan’s homiletical autobiography. His guiding metaphor of a winding mountain road describes the different ways Stan has learned over the years to "cut" the Word of God, attempting to speak the Gospel faithfully, honestly, understandably and winsomely to several US congregations.

The metaphor is surely apt for any and all thoughtful, reflective preachers and, I hope, preachers’ lay confidantes. There are many mountains and many roads all around the world that preachers travel. Some are straighter, some more full of hairpin turns than others, but every change of parish and church forces us preachers to make route changes, travel roads we usually had not planned in terms of language, packaging and delivery of sermons. Yet as on any journey, we can learn from another traveller's route, even if sometimes we get whiplash from the suddenness of the turns or from having to hit the brakes to avert disaster on our own journeys.

Without giving away any of the surprises, I am sure you’ll find Stan’s memoir a hopeful and challenging stimulus to your own preaching or listening to sermons. Stan cites all manner of critics graciously, even though not all have been gracious to him. You can find the book, published by Deep River Books in Sisters, Oregon, or maybe just call or email Stan. (Stan—Are you there?)

Next time I see Stan, I’m going to ask him to autograph it for me. By the way, you’ll probably also be able to get some ideas for sermons of your own from Stan’s examples. But be sure to give credit where it’s due. 

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Let's Discuss…

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Jim,

  You seem to be hurt. When you have posted various articles I observe a theme of pastoral oppression. I hope, if I'm correct, that you have a lay confidant. Stans article reflects a journey everyone is on. In the other professions, those kind of interactions that "crass" people comment and negative remarks are spoken is a lot more intense than you will be good at what you do someday. I just trying to set some context to this post and I mean no harm.

Thanks

Ken

Participant

Thanks, Ken, for your comments, thoughts. You always stimulate readers! 

I guess there IS a theme of  "pastoral oppression," as you call it. I admit some of that comes from my own personal experiences, but at least as much from hearing colleagues over the years sharing--and rarely whining--about the sheer difficulty of the calling of being pastor. We are often confidants to each other. 

I fully realize every profession-calling has its own difficulties and I make no special case for overburdened preachers and pastors. We live in a fallen world, but one heading to complete redemption. There are so often tensions in trying to follow Jesus faithfully, no matter what the calling. I believe that in this fallen and recovering world, the tensions have to be kept in perspective. The pastoral calling has its own tensions and struggles. From your contributions to the Network, it is clear you have suffered and continue to suffer your own struggles; you have been courageous in describing some of them. I also believe you find support for the most part from this Network project--all while you contribute generously, thoughtfully, even provocatively.

When I find a dandy little book like Stan Mast's I am grateful for one more course correction that I'm offered to help keep me on the path of faithful preaching. The crass comments from sisters and brothers have to be lived with, dealt with fairly, patiently, looking for helps within them, even though some of them might hurt ("oppress") at the moment. And I must also remember that there surely have been times when I have made less than immediately helpful comments to colleagues, parishioners, family, friends. They still love me and I love them. Who has the harder task? Well, I'd rather not speculate on that one! 

Anyway, thanks again. May our little interchange help not only preachers of the Word, but also listeners and above all doers!

Jim,

  I have many pastor friends and confidants. It is a extremely difficult profession by any imagination. Being a pastor as well know, creates unique demands on people unlike most professions. That being said Jim, your greatest service in the church is how you relationally spread the Word. People will remember you by how leadership lifts up the church and for your personal interactions. Sermons are extremely important by providing the window to meaning of His words. But peope are more relational than intellectual. Most lay people are very intimidated by a Pastors knowledge and moral authority. That, I believe is one the reasons Pastors are challenged by some lay people. You know how big our male ego's are.

  Anyway Jim you are good person. Your reaction shows your matured faith that cries for Divine justice. I like you Jim. Thanks for listening to a broken, sick shutin.

Ken

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