Homiletical Mirror-talk: Cleaning the House

Homiletical Mirror-talk: Cleaning the House
(I’m working on doing a bit of analysis on my own preaching, as a way of improving. So this is kind of like a preacher doing film-study…I want to catch the places where I need improvement, and also just be able to look back and learn from the sermons themselves.)

I’ve been working on migrating this site, and part of the process for doing so has meant moving over a bunch of sermon files. I’m trying to do a bit of archival work on some of those, so I can have easier access to them later. While I’ve been doing that, I’ve been listening to a few of my own sermons, which I think is an underutilized practice for most preachers, myself included. Doing some reflective critique on your own recordings can be an intensely formative exercise. (Also, doing so with another person! Basically, I’m in favor of most forms of intentional reflection.)

Cleaning the House.001 This morning, I listened to a sermon from this summer, called “Cleaning the House” (July 20, 2014). It’s from the Luke series, and revolves around the episode in Luke 19:41-48 where Jesus laments over Jerusalem and then clears the temple. I chose to include that lament with the temple story, rather than with the preceding account of the triumphant entry, because I think together the lament and the temple clearing create a fierce critique of the power plays of Jerusalem. Here’s the sermon audio:

Here’s a little bit of what I see in the sermon, looking back.

  1. There’s a lot of wind-up. I chose to illustrate the idea of “Place as symbol” in multiple ways, and I think there might be a layer too many. I think it works okay, but I probably could have pared that down to be more efficient without really losing too much of the punch. As it is, it takes a while to really get to the heart of the text. The sermon weighs in at 27 minutes, and it could have perhaps lost 5 here.
  2. This sermon is a bit pedagogical, and relies on a nuanced interpretation of the text. While I generally avoid selling the exegesis in the sermon, I think in a case like this it’s a little more important. I think one of the places this sermon needed a little more was in showing how the temple was a symbol that carried multiple meanings (as a sign of economic oppression, for instance). It’s implicit in the sermon, but I’m not sure if it would have really carried for someone who wasn’t already on board with that particular interpretive line.
  3. I think the bit towards the end where it moves to talking about prayer as dependence on God is pretty useful. I also like that it returned to that piece of the text with the language of “the things that make for peace”. I think that the sermon gives that phrase the space to have some resonance. Ultimately, that’s the kind of thing I think I’m trying to do with a lot of my preaching…carve out some space for the text to echo around in, letting it play and find a place to do some formative work.