Sunday, June 17, 2018

from queerying to preaching: the 4th after pentecost year b

For a while now I've been sermonizing and preaching in a new way.  Now that I feel like I have a bit of a pattern to it, I thought I'd update you on the whole process.  

When I first preached this way, it was by accident and because the Holy Spirit made me do it (like she does).  Since then, I have preached several sermons with a similar sermonizing style as what that first one ended up being.

My sermons begin, about a week before preaching, with queerying the text.  This is a process I developed, after a fabulously queer text study (some might call it the queerest text study ever) with a friend, Rev. Caleb Crainer, at our annual Proclaim Gathering.  Queerying the text developed as a way for me to continue to engage devotionally with the lectionary, even as I was no longer preaching as regularly, and as a resource for others who were preaching or wanting to engage more deeply with one or more texts for the upcoming week.  

The heart of queerying is asking questions of the text, of us who engage with the text, and of the world, cosmos, and culture in which we live.  A lot of my queerying also comes with links that can problematize the text or the question, suggest answers, give examples, and more.  The particular perspectives I do my best to bring are a hermeneutic of suspicion, which I've learned from feminist theologians; a queer attention to those who are not heard and those who don't have power or names; and an attention to the intersectionality of identity, politics, power and liberation, learned from womanist, mujerista, and liberation theologians, among others.  

A lot of the time this involves google and more in-depth searches as well as cultivating from my ever growing list of resources and friends.  If you know of good connections (to resources or people) for me to make in my queeries, please let me know!  I try to do this Friday or Saturday a week before the reading(s) come up in the Revised Common Lectionary, but depending on the work (to pay the bills) that I have and other life events, sometimes it gets done and/or posted as late as Tuesday.  Sometimes I get more than one reading queeried, but many weeks it has just been one (lately, the gospel).

For this week, queerying the text looked like this:

Mark 4:26-34
26Jesus also said,
    “The reign of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground,
         27and would sleep and rise night and day,
              and the seed would sprout and grow,
                   the sower does not know how.
         28The earth produces of itself,
              first the stalk,
                   then the head,
                        then the full grain in the head.
              29But when the grain is ripe,
                   at once the sower goes in with a sickle,
                        because the harvest has come.”

30Jesus also said,
    “With what can we compare the reign of God,
         or what parable will we use for it?
         31It is like a mustard seed, which,
              when sown upon the ground,
                   is the smallest of all the seeds on earth;
              32yet when it is sown it grows up
                   and becomes the greatest of all shrubs,
                        and puts forth large branches,
                             so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

33With many such parables Jesus spoke the word to them,
    as they were able to hear it;
         34Jesus did not speak to those around him except in parables,
              but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Queerying the text:
What does the first parable mean in light of scientific knowledge?
Are we so distanced from the harvest that most of us no longer know how the earth produces?
How is God's reign like a weed?
What does mustard look like fully grown?
Does Jesus just want us to stop getting in the way of the reign of God?
Why does Jesus use riddles so much?  Why are the disciples the only ones that get explanations?

What are your queeries?


After queerying the text, I continued to sit with it as well as the other two readings for this weekend.  It percolated along with unfolding events and remembrances of recent history.  It simmered in conversations with others during the present Pride month of celebration, resistance, and rebellion.  It sparkled and shined as I looked ahead.

And then I began to sketch out the sermon—to really sermonize. This week I tried to be more intentional, so that I wouldn't end up redoing a "final" (read: colorful) sermon (but I redid it anyway, which is what I have done each of the past weeks).  

This was the draft I first sketched out.

Because I haven't figured out how to practice preaching out loud by myself, I then preached to my friend, River Needham, via Skype (as has become a delightful weekly occurrence for us both) for feedback and so that I could record a draft of my sermon.  This usually happens after my first colorful draft of my sermon, but this week it happened before.

This is what I had hoped would be my final draft, but was really just my first colorful one.

Following the brilliant practice of another friend, Rev. Corrine Haulotte, I have begun recording a sermon in draft form and then listening to it over and over again Saturday and Sunday to get the words and the flow into my head.  I used to hesitate about doing this, because with manuscripts I would tweak them the morning of preaching.  Once I started doing it, I realized that listening to them over and over again let me mentally tweak and realize where I wanted to change things, where it was good, and any other shifts I wanted to make.  This helped, rather than hindering, the sermonizing process.

This is the final visual for this week's sermon.

Receiving feedback and re-listening to my sermon inevitably leads to a new draft of the sermon.  This week's sermon is particularly visual, with images in addition to words and visual movement.  This week's sermon is also covered in glitter, much like the children's message.

There is an audio for this sermon, although I am recovering from a sinus infection, so you can tell that I'm not 100%, but I don't have a way to host the audio, because it requires so much, so if you're really interested in the audio, you'll have to comment or contact me and let me know.


This is more or less the pattern I now use for sermonizing and preaching.  I no longer use a manuscript, though some of my favorite preachers definitely do.  Particularly as someone who does a lot of pulpit supply, where I don't know the congregation(s) as well, this is helpful, because it forces me to pay attention and respond to the congregation in more intentional ways.  I am more clued in on if they're clued in or spaced out (Speaking of spaced out, have you seen this version of the new pride flag??  It's awesome!!!).

I'd love your feedback if you have questions, comments, or concerns!  Let me know what you think.  Also, if you like my queerying (whether it's the text, music, or liturgy) and/or want it to be more frequent, click the button on the right towards the top of the blog and "buy me a coffee" to help financially support me and my work!


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