The Absurdity of Preaching
I think the Book of Jonah is an absurd book. But it is not just the book that is absurd. Preaching is a little absurd, isn’t it? I spend hours reading the biblical text, consulting commentaries, writing the sermon, creating a powerpoint, learning the sermon, and then I get up to give this message, and that’s it. The moment has passed. I wonder what happened in that moment? How was God present? There is something absolutely foolish and wonderful about preaching. Christians believe that our words matter and can impact people, that telling the stories from the Bible and connecting them to our lives is important. We encourage people to gather and listen to a speech that is immersed in God’s Word. It is so valuable to us that it is something that happens in most of our Sunday gatherings. We believe that God breathes onto such words, and these words can inspire us, change us, shape us to be God’s people.
The story of Jonah begins with the Word of God coming to Jonah, and God summons Jonah to preach. Jonah is called to preach against a city that has become wicked. It seems absolutely terrifying and absurd that Jonah’s sermons could make any difference in that city. Yet this is a common way that God chooses to work. He raises people up, and he says: speak, speak in my name and with my power. We are a small community here in Seaforth; struggling to make the microphones work, sometimes the computer freezes and the powerpoints don’t work, we still have a few people joining us on Zoom trying to listen in. I look around, and some people are nodding, and some people are yawning. I can be tempted to think that preaching does not have any value. But after spending some time in Jonah I have instead decided to embrace the absurdity of preaching once more. When I get up to preach, I want to offer my sermon first and foremost to God. This is for you. May these words delight you. I am asking God’s Spirit to be present in these words and do something powerful and unexpected.
For those who are interested here are resources that I drew on to help me prepare to preach Jonah 1:
- David Benjamin Blower, Sympathy for Jonah
- Richard Flanagan, The Living Sea of Waking Dreams
- Geoff Thompson and Benjamin Sveen, Border controls leave an army of invisible workers trapped on floating sweatshops, ABC News, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-21/maritime-workers-left-floating-in-a-sea-of-red-tape/12899040
- Charis Chang, Survey shows absurd amount Aussies earning $200k need to earn to feel wealthy, News.com.au, https://www.news.com.au/finance/money/budgeting/survey-shows-absurd-amount-aussies-earninCg-200k-need-to-earn-to-feel-wealthy/news-story/1c1f98c2aada7d29201fc9384d313bd1