Tag Archives: sermon

Does the Audience Change the Message?

I expect most of us are familiar with the expression, “The medium is the message” coined by Marshall McLuhan.  The phrase is as old as I am, well ten months older.  At the time it was spoken in reference to the quickly changing face of media and our tendency to focus on the obvious effects and not really look for a deeper level.  I don’t pretend to really understand McLuhan’s message, but I think that it is important to look at our messages, especially as they are becoming more and more public through blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc.

When I prepare a message for any of my usual churches I do so knowing that, for the most part, I will be preaching to a Christian audience with a fairly similar frame of reference to mine.  When I write something for my blog it is different, I have no way of knowing who may read my post so things I wouldn’t normally explain get explanation.  Things that are totally open to the world on the internet need a different filter than comments to my friends and colleagues over lunch.  Awareness of audience is even one of the sections on rubrics for evaluating student writing.

I am working on a service I will be leading at my sister’s church in the Montreal area.  I have led worship at all four of the Presbyterian churches in my area, but this will be my first time preaching out of the province.   I am somewhat familiar with the church as I have worshipped there and sung in the choir on occasion, but I don’t really know it.  I do know that there are several retired ministers and theology professors who attend her church. While I am used to having one or two retired ministers in the congregation for my services at home, they are people with whom I am very familiar and comfortable.  This is not the case for my sister’s church, and who knows what other areas of speciality  I may trip upon in my message?

One service I did on Aboriginal Sunday a while back went well.  At the end I greeted people at the back as usual.  One woman hung back for a bit and when she came up to me said she was debating whether or not to tell me what she really thought.  I asked her to go ahead.  She was not pleased with my message and gave me various reasons mostly related to her perceptions of “special treatment” for First Nations people in our area.  While she had, in part, missed the actual point of the sermon, she needed to talk about the issues it raised for her and I hope that helped her in some way.

So, would I write a different message if I was speaking to the un-churched, the working class, a room full of professors, or atheists?  In the end, all I can do is what I usually do.  I will study the texts carefully, review what other’s have said on the topic,  do some fact checking, and then write what seems to flow.  Hopefully what I say will give people something new to think about, something to inspire them, or something about which to debate.

The Blinking Cursor: Need To Write And Can’t Get Started


I am leading worship at our church this Sunday, Transfiguration Sunday in the liturgical calendar, and I’m not really ready.  To be honest, other than the bulletin material which was due Tuesday and having read the text and thought about it some, I’m totally unprepared. So there sits that blinking cursor at the start of a Word document.  The trick is to get that first word or sentence typed in, even if we may erase it soon after in favour of a better turn of phrase, or a more valid point.  Once started in the actual writing something will be on the page and you can go on from there.

As for my sermon for this week, I was pretty sure I was going to focus on the location of Moses’ and Jesus/apostles interactions with God.  You know, “location, location, location!”  Why did all these things happen at the top of mountains?  Were these mountains like the Rockies or the Himalayas or more like the Appalachian Mountains in New Brunswick which look more like hills?  Are we still supposed to be going to the mountains, and where are they?

A couple of days ago a friend of mine who is a United Church minister was on Facebook looking for brainstorming ideas for Transfiguration Sunday.  It was interesting to see the ideas that came in. The focus was largely on the transfiguration itself, what it would be like etc.  My friend is planning to focus on the fact that you are never the same after, when you come down off the mountain.  There followed, for me, a period of second-guessing.  Afterall, my idea was quite a different focus from those of others who are ordained…you get the drift I’m sure.

No one will know for sure what I will say until Sunday morning, and you would all be most welcome to come (St. James Presbyterian, 1991 Hanwell Rd, Fredericton, N.B. Canada).  I do think I will go with my first instinct though, however it may end up.  Historically, people felt they needed to go to high places to get closer to God.  The Mesopotamians worshiped at ziggurats, man-made mountains, Mount Olympus is the mount of the Gods in Greece.  The thing is, things changed forever when God entered into our world as a human child.  Figuratively speaking, he came down the mountain to us and remains with us through the Holy Spirit.  We don’t need to go to a high place in order to experience the glory of God, we may need a quiet place, or for some of us a worship space, but God has come down to us once and for all!