I know Lent starts today but this Lent is different. It comes after a year of penitence and self-examination. It is hard to find the energy to re-imagine Lent this year. Yet I also think people in the pews are eager to find the wisdom of the church in this moment. I also believe that often in times of greatest challenge clergy can discover that the Bible preaches itself.
But just in case you are casting about for ideas or are looking for ways to enrich your sermon prep. Here are some things to consider.
Lent is a great time to connect your preaching thematically. Here are some ways to do that.
If you preach with the New Revised Common Lectionary
Here are some ideas for the season of Lent.
2.21 Baptism & Wilderness Mark 1:9-15 - Baptism by Fire
2.28 Keeping it Real Mark 8: 31-38 & Transfiguration Mark 9: 2-9
3.7 Driving our the Money-Changers John 2:13-22
The Creep of Corruption
3.14 God so Loved the world in John 3:14-21
God’s Extravagant Gift
3.21 Jesus predicts his death -grain of wheat falls John 12:20-33
Great Courses: Resurrection Explained, Prof. Jesus Christ
3.28 Palm Sunday Mark 11:1-11 Called to Protest Injustice
If you are preaching with the Lectionary and want a theme to connect these sermons here are some ideas:
Keeping it Real -
Jesus doesn’t mince his words in Mark’s gospel. He does not sugar-coat his message or his mission.
The COVID 19 pandemic is challenging us to radically re-think how we lead one of the most time-honored traditions - Sunday worship. It is pushing us to learn new skills, to consider new audiences, and to preach in different ways.
In planning online worship consider that most people have a short attention span when they watch a screen. You are competing with other online productions - like those produced by Disney, so there is stiff competition for the online audience. Unconsciously, many people are comparing worship to a show and they get restless if the service is choppy, or there are long pauses or breaks in the action.
Lessons I have learned:
1. Keep it short - Services over 30 minutes run the risk of losing the online audience.
2. Keep things focussed. Edit your remarks for clarity. Its better to be a little repetitive than all over the map.
3. Use shorter sentences. Try to avoid complex sentences.
4. Limit yourself to One illustration or story - Its fine to mention well-known facts or events but don’t take people to another place for a complex story, or complicated illustration.
5. If you quote an authority - shooter the quote or consider a paraphrase.
Summary: Don’t create places in your sermon where people can take a tangent, because folks online have short attention spans and you don’t have the ability to bring them back to your message that you do in person.
I will be presenting two workshops at the Southern New England Super Saturday.
The Post Pandemic Church
March 13 at 1:00 p.m.
I am collaborating with Rev. Peggy O’Connor in a workshop about the gifts to the church in this pandemic. While many institutions have been challenged by this pandemic, few have been any more challenged than churches. We may be asked to make long-term changes in the way we worship to keep our congregations safe. We’ll look at the opportunities in this moment for church leaders.
Register at the Southern New England UCC website https://www.sneucc.org/newsdetail/super-saturday-registration-open-14978675
Talk: Post Pandemic Church
Barnstable Association, Cape Cod Massachusetts
Sunday 1:00 p.m. April 18, 2021.
Preaching in a Pandemic March 20 1:00 p.m.
I’m collaborating with Rev. Scott Spencer from Woodside Congregational Church in Cranston Rhode Island. We will be sharing ideas about how to preach in a pandemic, and leading a discussion about challenges and triumphs you have experienced. This workshop is open to clergy and lay leaders in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Check it out at this site https://www.sneucc.org/newsdetail/super-saturday-registration-open-14978675