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Delivering a Great Sermon

How do you decide which sermons win awards?" I asked the editor, and received a thoroughly rational answer. Submissions to the Alfred P. Klausler Sermon Awards were evaluated on good use of biblical text and contemporary illustrations, clarity of thought, comforting the afflicted, challenging evil--all the criteria we learned in preaching classes.
But in the field, evaluating effective sermons is not so simple. Our judges recognize that the sermon has no life until it's preached in a particular parish setting. There is no fixed meaning of a chosen passage, no single reading of a printed sermon. Like the stories that circulate among the people of a congregation, biblical texts take on various shades of meaning from the insights of the speaker and the needs of the listeners, the speaker's verbal articulation and body language, the cultural setting of the gathering and the spatial relations of speaker to audience, the economy of the community and its sociopolitical identity in the larger world. All words and gestures carry connotations appropriate to their cultures. As William Whyte said of Boston society, a raised eyebrow in one community is the equivalent of a fist pounding on the table (or pulpit) in another part of town. [Read More].




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