The state of the blog, or Why I am not a preacher

I don’t know if anyone else has had the experience of meeting people in the secular workplace who say something to the effect of, “You’re very religious! Have you ever thought of being ordained?”

Because that’s what holy people do.

Except we know that they don’t (necessarily). God needs lay people just as much as he needs vicars and ministers. He needs people out there in the community, with jobs, and overtime worries, and wages to pay or receive, and work colleagues who swear and defraud the Inland Revenue.

The Church of England is well aware that lay people are useful and valuable in lots of ways, and our diocese is running several courses for them. So far I haven’t been on any of these, but I might.

Except that I’ll probably want to avoid any course that assumes that passing it means I’m qualified to preach..

Just as some non-Christians seem to assume that getting ordained is the natural next step for a “religious” person, equally if you’re a talkative church type, some Christians assume you should want to be in the pulpit.

I have enormous admiration for lay people who manage to combine hectic work and family life with preparing sermons.

And I have in fact sort-of preached two. One was a particular topic that the Planning Team thought I would be suitable for (basically “Christianity and Modern Democracy”). The other was less a sermon than a joint talk with my co-warden on the subject of “How to Welcome Your New Vicar”.

But I have no desire to go back up to the pulpit.

I am not humble enough to be a regular preacher. Regular preachers go on a rota, and get handed a passage. For example, “on 1st May please preach on Exodus 20 as part of our series on The Life and Times of Moses.”

In other words, subordinate yourself, your Bible-knowledge and theories, and your ego, to two things, which are not quite the same – the pattern or theme that the vicar or church (or lectionary) has chosen; and what God may be saying for this church now on the given Bible passage for the day.

The people who can do this are heroes.

But I’m not. I have no confidence in either my ability or even my willingness to listen to what God wants to say on a particular topic, as opposed to what I want to say.

I prefer to pontificate on the subject of my choice, which is why I’m a storyteller, and even more why I’m a blogger. Maybe God guides this, but don’t count on it.

The three purposes of this blog, as you all remember, are: 1) advertising the Tales from Ragaris; 2) addressing thorny issues for this particular Christian at this particular time; and 3) self-expression generally.

(Although it’s true that I wouldn’t mind a slightly larger readership, especially for advertising purposes, it sometimes feels like quite a nice little community that we’ve got here, especially when it comes to the comments section. Of course it’s very flattering when anyone comments at all on what I say, but when Judith L responds to Stephen S, or Stephen to Clint, I’m intrigued by what I’ve started – and I haven’t had to do any moderating!)

I also enjoy hosting pieces by the brave who’ve been willing to offer their thoughts, most recently Matthew Perry on life in Sweden.

Of course the bonus of the lectionary is that the topics, or at least the readings, are provided from outside, and the disadvantage of choosing your own post-topic is, well, having to choose the topic, every week.

It is always possible to ask the vicar if we can have a sermon or sermon series on a certain theme – one can ask – and similarly is there anything I ought to be covering that you’d like?

You may respond that you can’t possibly know what may interest me in category (3) above. You might also point out that we haven’t had a great deal in category (2), and this is true, because there’s a fine line between courage and disloyalty when it comes to questioning tenets or attitudes of faith.

I’ve been meaning for a long time to post crossly about the prophet Jeremiah  and (separately) about the gospel of John, and now that I’ve put this in black and white, perhaps I will.

More positively, I seem to be managing to read three spiritual books at the same time, all very different, and you may see reviews or comments on all these in due course. I am always open to offers of reviews of other helpful books for the thoughtful Christian.

Other topics you may see here soon are: Christian fiction versus fiction about Christians; the vindictiveness or otherwise of King David; and why our Queen is Elizabeth the Second.

Love from the PPI Blogger



  • Clint Redwood

    30th November 2018 at 5:28 pm Reply

    So far, I can’t see that you have struggled to find a number of interesting and unexpected topics for this blog. While I can’t say I am enthralled by all of them, the fact that I have been interested in what you have to say on things I may not have thought I cared about at all, demonstrating the usefulness of a carefully curated blog, rather than just reading the few things that interest me.

    You also remind me that I should take more action to create things myself, rather than just consuming other people’s creations, and speaking of other people’s creations – when it book 4 coming out?

  • Matthew Perry

    1st December 2018 at 9:03 am Reply

    I have been part not only of preaching regularly but also of deciding on sermon series in our church in Sweden. It is a big responsibility and the preparation work is demanding. I also find it enjoyable to have to wrestle with the text and what God is saying, what it meant to the original readers and what it means to us today. I am just now preparing the final sermon is a series on Isaiah (I preached the first in August, this will be my fourth), this has been hard work but also has made me really think about Isaiah and his message and I am glad to have done so. I am, in general, a fan of following through a biblical book so that we do not choose texts that suit our perspective but instead have to face what God says in its entirety.

Post a Comment