The church would be lucky if more of its preachers could put expiration dates on their words.
Seriously, folks. The average pastor, vicar, parson, priest, friar, or other type of clergy person isn't going to be assembling the next Complete Sermons anthology. Their words aren't good enough. Nor are the best preachers' in the world. Their words aren't good enough.
Good enough for what?
For producing a compendium of timeless wisdom on life, God, and salvation.
There are no words for such an impossible task.
I ran into this issue when considering if my new website should have a sermons section. Was it worth re-posting my sermons on my own "property?" Were the words even mine to own?
Considering that they were for a specific gathered community, at a specific moment in history, and within the greater context of worship; and more importantly, considering that I'm often guest-preaching and am paid for those words and leadership during the service ...
... considering all of that, my words barely make sense on their own.
They can't stand up under their own weight.
Yes, I probably could re-work them into a shorter blog post. Or I could probably weave them into a newsletter article. But even then, they still would need an audience.
And I guess that raises other questions -- like, could I re-use those words in another sermon for another congregation ... or for the same community (even if, a la Heraclitus, it's a different congregation)? The next time the lectionary brought up those scripture passages, are my old words fair game for re-use?
Does a digital archive for comparison "water down" the eligible elements of the preached words?
Best of all possibilities:
The congregation has a website to post on
Slightly less good possibilities:
- They can post video, audio of the whole service
- Accompanying the media are links that go directly to the different parts of the service
- Sermon text is available for accessibility purposes, but is activated with a button by the media, and not splayed out across the website, taking up all of the visual spacing
- Comments are disabled for the sermon itself
- Copyright notices are put up for the content the congregation can own (obviously not hymnody ... in most instances)
- I post just the sermon words to my own website
- I share the links primarily on the congregation's social media and not through my own channels
- I put lots of disclaimers like "you had to have been there ..." or "These were approximately what I said ..."
Worst of all possibilities:
- Sermon texts are posted to a page outside of the congregation's or the minister's moderator-ability ("control" on the internet is a facade)
- Sermon texts don't include scripture references
- Sermon texts are incomplete or misrepresent what was really preached at worship
- Sermon texts are forwarded in email chains
My Latest Sermon
I wish I could say I had setup my wife's congregation for the best of all possibilities. On some Sundays (like the ones when I remember to bring my audio recorder), they are close. But even still -- context matters.
Here's my latest sermon
that I preached at the Church of St. Benedict in Bolingbrook, Illinois.
It's not the best of all possibilities.
And you really had to be there (especially for the karaoke section near the beginning).
And my words would be best if they expired sometime in the near future.
But nevertheless, I'm thankful that sermons can be shared, and I'm hopeful others will hear what God wants them to hear in the process.