Preaching Resource: Every Moment Holy
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Preaching is just one sub-category of pastoral speech. What we say outside the pulpit–when comforting a family after the loss of a loved one, praying for a patient about to undergo surgery, or meeting with a small group leader about the people they disciple–requires just as much careful attention as our words on Sunday morning.
Many of these situations require “on the spot” prayer, forcing us to blaze our own trails with words that fit the longings and losses of the people God’s called us to be with in the moment. Other situations–including baptism, Communion, and corporately praying The Lord’s Prayer–allow us to tread well-worn trails of pastoral speech, lifting to God words that speak for our hearts even as they were written by someone else.
Every Moment Holy is a collection of guided prayers formed after The Lord’s Prayer, that encourages readers to approach everyday moments as invitations to prayer. The book is filled with patterns of worship for both milestones (e.g. “A Liturgy for a New Home,”) and everyday moments (e.g. “A Liturgy for Changing a Diaper”) that point to how each act of our day can point toward God’s work in the world.
The prayers themselves are formative; and (almost as importantly) this book helps readers cultivate a vocabulary of prayer that builds a rich well of dialogue with God and others. Anyone who reads this will take several insights away; the following are some of those we found most important for preachers:
- Careful Words: Words are often used cheaply. And since most of our culture engages with words via sound-bytes thrown into the ether, preachers can sometimes fall into the temptation to choose words without considering the people to whom they will be delivered. The words we use on Sunday will shape the way people see the Good News (and even how good they perceive it to be). Both in preparation and in the moment of a sermon, corporate prayer, or meeting, wise preachers work to discern the right words for the right moment.
- Pastoral Listening: Right words are important; but the right words are only as right as the preachers’ discernment of the context. Knowing the right words is dependent on attentive listening to both God and the people we serve. Every Moment Holy reminds us that listening to the voice of God–and the longings and losses of our congregation–are more than afterthoughts in our preaching process.
- Improvisational Spirit: Structuring prayer and preaching with careful words and attentive listening are crucial; structure, however, is useful only insofar as it gives rise to freedom. Liturgy–and well-worn trails of prayer–are useful guides to a vibrant and ongoing relationship with God and congregation. The best preachers come with a plan, hold space for a response in-the-moment, and work to develop enough knowledge of the text and congregation to weave them together faithfully.
- Hidden Holiness: Every Moment Holy reminds us of the importance of attending to how small things like morning coffee, seasonal changes, and changing a diaper can be spiritual actions. One of the great tasks of preaching is to help the congregation find where holiness may be hiding–in the world, in themselves, and (most essentially) in Jesus Christ.
If you’ve used the resource, what has stood out as important to you? Whether or not you’ve used it, what resources (websites, books, Scripture, written prayers) have helped you approach God more faithfully in your life and preaching?
Ethan Linder © 2019
Ethan Linder is the Pastor of Hospitality, Collegians, and Young Adults at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and the Editor of The Wesleyan Church’s Education and Clergy Development writing staff.