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Friday, February 18, 2005

Behave yourselves, Philocrites is busy.

After I say a few things about grace and freedom in the sermon I'll be preaching on Sunday, I'll be getting on a plane to Phoenix to visit my youngest sister. She is performing her senior oboe recital at Arizona State University early next week. I'm very excited to be there because I've lived on the other side of the continent throughout her high school and college years and have missed almost every one of her recitals. In fact, I've really only heard her perform publicly three or four times, including at my wedding and back in 1997 when her youth symphony orchestra traveled to New York to perform in Carnegie Hall. (Now that is a memory: It was my first time in New York, too, and the two of us spent the evening after their performance of Barber's Adagio and other lovely works walking around Central Park and taking in the city.) Needless to say, I'm very proud of her.

Of course, what this means for you, dear readers, is that I'm going away for a few days. Who knows? Maybe I'll find time to post something — I might even finish my essay explaining why Phil's Little Blog on the Prairie was my vote for best UU blog — but then again, I might not post anything at all until Wednesday night or Thursday. While I'm gone, a question: If you could dream up your very own UU magazine, what would it be like?

Update 2.23.05: I've corrected the name of my sister's university.

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 18 February 2005 at 5:37 PM

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James Field:

February 18, 2005 08:13 PM | Permalink for this comment

My latest post is actually a round about way of saying why I think Rev. Phil probably does the best UU blog too.


February 18, 2005 08:32 PM | Permalink for this comment

Yes, people, go read James's blog Left Coast Unitarian and the post he mentions, "Lenten Snark Vigil."

Doug Muder:

February 22, 2005 09:05 AM | Permalink for this comment

How'd Sunday go? Going to put the text online?


February 24, 2005 10:30 AM | Permalink for this comment

Doug, Adam says the sermon was well received, but I think I'm not yet ready to post it. However, I won't let that stop me from promoting the two humanist texts that inspired the sermon: Carl Dennis's "The God Who Loves You" from Practical Gods and Wislawa Szymborska's "We're Extremely Fortunate" from Poems New and Collected, 1957-1997.

I drew the theme from two biblical texts from the Revised Common Lectionary for the day: Genesis 12:1-4a (the call to Abram) and Romans 4:1-5, 13-21 (Paul's interpretation of Abraham's response), although I used the New Jerusalem translation of Genesis and Eugene Peterson's contemporary colloquial translation, The Message, for Romans. Mrs Philocrites thought these two groups of texts did not actually work well together, and that I stretched Paul's doctrine of grace well beyond his meaning. The theme I hoped tied the whole thing together is that grace enables us to recognize our lives as "sheer gift," which is a phrase in Peterson's version of Romans 4. I could lamely say that I'm a Unitarian and can get away with stuff like that, but I think I'm really trying to get a handle on the varieties of grace, only one of which is Paul's christocentric one. I'm sure I'll be returning to this theme, and maybe a more fully matured version of the sermon will show up here someday.


February 24, 2005 11:29 AM | Permalink for this comment

Tut tut. Eisegesis! Bad minister. You've got to watch that stuff when you're not in a UU-only pulpit!


February 24, 2005 11:47 AM | Permalink for this comment

Word of the day: Eisegesis. Sadly, I have to watch it all the time because my wife is a serious biblical preacher. She loves me, but she does not let me get away with bad theology.

Question for UU preachers: When is most UU preaching that uses the Bible not eisegesis? Does thematic preaching always hang texts on the theme rather than discover the theme in the texts?


February 27, 2005 07:59 PM | Permalink for this comment

Since I'm not a "UU preacher", but none of those seem to have risen to your bait yet, I answered your question over on my own blog.


March 1, 2005 12:32 PM | Permalink for this comment

Hey Guys!

Sorry not to have replied as of yet, but I have been away and then ill...

I realize--as the primary resident of the Non-UU-Only pulpit in question--I may not be the best responder to your inquiry. However, as Fausto observed, no one has taken the bait as of yet.

For me, preaching is chicken and egg. I am, not surprisingly, a regular reader (for fun) and studier (for work) of the Bible. I usually carry around a blue NRSV I bought my first semester in college but any translation will do in a pinch. When I sit down to prepare the service, I usually have some idea of what I will be talking about. Sometimes I think that I have come up with a theme from TV, the newspaper, conversations with church members, some Buddhist or Islamic text or something similar. Then, once I get going in developing and deepening the subject matter, I find that it was the Bible all along! Occasionally, I have no idea what I am going to talk about. In times like that the Bible comes out and I start reading until I find something. Only then I go looking for other perspectives and sources. It hasn’t failed me yet.

I do not know if my preaching is “thematic” or not (and yes, I have read Jane Rzepka’s book). I suspect that there are others who couldn’t tell you either. If thematic means “not lectionary,” then I guess that, most of the time, it is what I do. However, I don’t particularly care what style or technique I use. Instead I am looking first for relevance and a point. Then I search for things like impact, clarity, “cluefulness” and liveliness. If I find this in my preaching and praying then I know I have done my job. It not, I can only rejoice that I have the next Sunday to make it up to the congregation.

Finally, I find that it is not usually a good idea to make the Bible fit your theme. When I come up against a situation where the Bible doesn’t quite fit, I usually say that. One of the joys of being a religious liberal preaching within the Christian Tradition is that, in my dialogue with scripture, I am free to argue with it. Also, if I take an unorthodox position I try to explain why--in light of personal experience or Biblical scholarship--I think that position is right.

Does that help? Am I out to lunch? Again Chris, the reviews have been excellent! You are welcome back to Eliot any time.

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