Discovering a Sermon: Personal Pastoral Preaching

by Robert C. Dykstra. Chalice Press, 2001.

Out of his conviction that people listen to sermons hoping that their lives may be transformed, Robert Dykstra discusses and demonstrates preaching which connects biblical texts with contemporary life. He writes, "Pastoral preaching involves, above all, paying attention and taking notice." Rather than trying to be interesting, the preacher begins by being personally interested in the biblical text and in life.

The author, who teaches pastoral theology at Princeton, draws on the insights of psychoanalysts D. W. Winnicott and others. Each chapter (including the epilogue) features a sermon that effectively exhibits the thrust of the chapter. In "Playing with the Text" Dykstra encourages the preacher to be alone with the biblical text for some hours, noting observations and questions before referring to commentaries. "Playing Witness to Life" involves "wasting time" with the preacher’s own passions and interests so that the Word takes on flesh; the preacher who allows the biblical story to be tested by life is prepared to preach with passion. In "Playing with Strangers" the author argues against preaching predictable, orthodox sermons, and for imagining how text and sermon will be perceived by people of divergent life experiences. "Playing with Fire" is "tinker(ing) with the odd and sometimes volatile combinations at the edge of the mundane and the sacred in formulating contemporary parables that fuel a sermon."

This book will help experienced preachers as well as seminarians and beginning preachers.