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.