Since I spent some time last year preaching on the Lord’s Prayer, I wanted to take a different approach when it came to the topic of prayer and preach on contemplative prayer. One of the advantages of a topical sermon is the opportunity you have to explore not just the scriptures but Christians from the past as well. We can hear their stories. I find it fascinating and encouraging to learn about people who have followed Jesus right throughout history and in different cultures to myself. It seemed fitting to do on All Saints Day. This is a day where the church traditionally honours the dead and celebrates the lives of those saints who have come before us. Baptist churches tend not to mark such occasions which I think is a shame so today I chose to share the stories of Teresa of Avila and Brother Laurence.
The hard thing about preparing a topical sermon is that for me it takes a lot more time to prepare. I am familiar with the Bible, but I not as familiar with church history. So, I needed to read a lot more. I needed to research the lives of Teresa and Laurence. And not just them. This sermon was framed around the artist Edward Hopper. His artwork seemed to be a natural fit into a discussion on contemplation and silence. I read an article that caught my eye about his work back in lockdown and his paintings have lingered with me since. I was able to use his work and weave it throughout the sermon displaying some of his paintings on the screen. But again I had to spend extra time researching his life and work. My hope is that when I interact with different books, movies, art from our culture, I am teaching that we can see God everywhere. A critical practice for a preacher (and for Christians) is to learn how to contemplate: keeping our eyes open to God’s grace and praying. If you are interested in thinking about prayer further, here are five resources that I drew on for this sermon. I’m happy for people to borrow from my collection!
- Re-listen to The Lord Prayer’s preaching series from last year on our website
- Katherine Thompson, Christ-Centred Mindfulness
- Julia Baird, Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder And Things That Sustain You When The World Goes Dark
- Brother Laurence, Practicing the Presence of God
- Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle