Generous Orthodoxy  

Friday, April 08, 2011

The twelve-minute sermon, challenged

As a riposte to the saying that people are constantly throwing at me ("If I had had more time, I would have written a shorter sermon"), I rejoice to pass along a quotation from the late lamented Rev. Dr. Prof. Peter Gomes of Harvard Memorial Church. This is lifted from Will Willimon's enjoyable remembrance of him in the March 8 issue of The Christian Century:

When I got word that Peter had died, I recalled some of his memorable pronouncements, uttered in his inimitable voice: "Anything worth saying in a sermon is worth taking at least 40 minutes to say it."
I preached twice at "Mem Church" at Peter Gomes' invitation. It was both a challenge and a joy. To know that one is expected to preach at some length (not 40 minutes, though!) was liberating. Expectation is the key ingredient in preaching, really; I remember wistfully the congregation at Grace Church in New York City where I served for 14 years. They were there expecting to hear a word from the Lord. That is rare in Episcopal churches today. I miss it very much.