One evening my wife offered me a meal that didn’t look familiar to me. Something about the look on my face must have suggested something other than full appreciation. “What’s wrong,” she said. “It’s everything that you like.” True enough, the dish only offered ingredients that I normally enjoyed, but they were offered in a different form than what I was accustomed. Thus my caution.I’ve realized that many people look at preaching just the same. A big part of what makes a sermon appealing to us is not just the content but the form in which it is presented. There are times when we will hear a sermon that has all the elements necessary to nourish us (solid biblical exegesis, authentic human connection, etc.) but which repels us because it comes to us in a form that we don’t recognize. Speaking honestly, I would say I need to be a little more mature in how I respond to my wife’s creative cooking. She’s a great cook and I’m learning to become a little more adventuresome in my response. I’d like to see the same from listeners to our preaching.
"Junk food sermons nourish no one!"
Of course, listeners are going to do what they are going to do. A preacher asking for a different kind of response from the listeners can be a little like King Canute forbidding the tide from coming in. Nevertheless, perhaps over time we can find ways to train listeners to broaden their homiletic palate, encouraging an appreciation of a greater variety in sermon form. Key to this is the need for preachers to make sure that their preaching is, in fact, truly nourishing. I’m thinking here of healthy servings of the human story, a compelling argument, the underlying mystery, and a motivating vision (see Choosing to Preach). In sum, junk food sermons nourish no one.