Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book 3 of 2017 -- Preaching the Big Questions: Doctrine Isn't Dusty

I remember a discussion from back in my final year of seminary.  As a class we were doing an assignment looking at various doctrines and one of my classmates said she "didn't do doctrine".  TO this day I think she actually was trying to say she didn't do dogma but in her mind the two words meant the same thing. The professor who was working with us on this piece had a nice answer. He suggested that we have to "do doctrine", we have to deal with it, but that the best approach was to approach it like a jazz musician. A jazz musician will take a piece of melody and play it as needed, sometime changing key, sometimes changing tempo or rhythm, sometimes taking a bit of a riff off of the base (not being a jazz person I have no idea how apt the comparison actually is). One of the challenges in ministry is in knowing how best to use our doctrinal base as a situation requires.

I have always liked that description.

This book had been out for a while before I gave in and bought it. I had heard good things.

The reality is that often in the United Church many of us (and I include myself in this group) do not do a good job of discussing doctrine. Doctrine sounds dry and academic and not relate-able to real-world issues.  Of course we are wrong. What we believe, and discussing what we believe, and discussing how what we believe intersects with and shapes how we live out lives is an essential piece of living lives of faith.

This book explores a variety of doctrines. It talks about what the doctrine addresses, it talks about why and when one might preach about it. Then there is a sample sermon to end each chapter.

In general I am not a doctrinal preacher. But, remembering the discussion referenced above, even if not preaching a doctrinal sermon doctrine is part of what we bring to the preaching exercise. It helps to take a look at what we believe every once in a while. And so the discussion continues.

The authors of this book come from a United Church of Canada context. And so they speak/write/preach from within that background. Still I think the book is helpful beyond the United Church of Canada. Because all Christian engage the same doctrinal questions -- even if we answer them a little bit (or sometimes a whole lot) differently.