ORAL CATHEDRAL

The following is an excerpt from my book about creating oral spaces for healing:

“A cathedral is entered through gigantic doors. They are far taller and wider than one person would need to enter. They are doors created with size, welcoming all who come to enter. Their size is invitational, not demanding. One has a choice—to enter and be swallowed by shadowed mystery or turn and retreat.

Through these vast doors, a whole community—stranger and friend, alien and enemy—gathers in the presence of a mystery grand beyond each and all. A cathedral is a space where light and shadow wrestle on the floor, where knowing and unknowing play tag among the pews. A cathedral is not a space where color and light are fixed and unchanging. It is a place where light pierces color and creates changing images in the air. Colors tumble over each other in a kaleidoscopic delight.

Cathedrals create a space in which the soul’s cacophonous voices can be drawn out into a safe space. They create stimuli to seduce the words from the depth of the repressed and controlled world in which many live and encourage them to center around a mysterious reality of grace and mercy. Cathedrals create communities whose character is formed by the space.

A cathedral is a space where words are bathed in beauty, and language is laced with incense. It is a place where music reaches beyond the heights and below the depths. It houses fire that flickers, casting its heat to warm cold hearts and its light to illumine the frightening dark.

A cathedral is also a place where time has an eternal quality. It is a place where the immediacy of urgent time is stretched into the expanse of timeless time. It is a place where time reaches back through the ages in memory and stares ahead into eternal wondering. A cathedral is a place where there is time to wander through the stained-glass stories, allowing ourselves to be stained by their humanity and divinity. It is a place where ordinary people seem to dance from the windows with a quality of illuminating saint-like life.

How does preaching create an oral sanctuary? How do we speak so that there is a sanctuary space in which the listeners might move without fear? How do we speak to create space between the tongue and the ear so that the spirit might have room to embrace both?”

For more about the creating an oral cathedral, you may download my book Healing Relationships: A Preaching Model FREE at www.danmoseley.com.

HEALING RELATIONSHIPS

Some things last longer than others. In 2009 I published a book on preaching that grew out of my experiences loss and change and my teaching in seminary. It develops a theory of preaching that operates on the assumption that we are more likely to be changed and transformed by our relationships than we are by what we think we should do. It assumes that “hope discovered is more life-giving than hope declared, that grace discovered is more healing than grace declared, that truth discovered is more liberating than truth declared.”

The book, “Healing Relationships: A Preaching Model” also includes six sermons first preached at the Chautauqua Institution that illustrate the theories I have developed in my book. It concludes with an essay on imagining preaching as the “Creating an Oral Cathedral” in which relationships happen and healing is possible.

Last year the book was taken out of print by the publisher. They burned their stock (the sad fate of books that don’t sell well). Because I think there is some material in the book that is helpful to preachers and others who are concerned about reconciliation and healing relationships, I purchased the rights to it and am now making it available free of charge. To get the book, just go to my website, www.danmoseley.com, and click on the book page. There you can download a PDF of the book.

I share this with the hope that I might contribute to the ongoing dialogue about effective preaching. I hope that the insights might help those who are new at the art of preaching discover an effective method of developing and delivering sermons. I also hope that those who have been at it a while (and may be getting tired of the same old experience) might find a fresh approach that can release new energy for their task of sharing gospel on the “relentless return of the sabbath.”

If you know ministers who might benefit from this resource, I invite you to share the book with them. I hope the thoughts shared in the book can enrich the experience of speaking and hearing gospel in faith communities.

INNOVATION

Innovations can be scary. It is very difficult to predict what they might mean.

I read somewhere about the response to the printed word. The printing press in 1439 and people began to have limited access to the printed word. As it began to grow, more people learned to read. People held words in their hands and explored ideas of others alone in their room. Before that time, information was transmitted primarily through spoken language and through the institutions of society who controlled that information (primarily rulers and the religious organizations).

Now there were some who were in power who objected to this increased availability of information.  They rightly posited that people would be harder to control if they could interpret what they received for themselves. Some would say that the Protestant Reformation of the church and the Enlightenment’s ability to nurture the rights of individuals was directly related to the printing press. Obviously, those who controlled information objected to the easier availability of ideas.

But, one of the most intriguing objections to the rise of the popularity of books was that individuals would lose track of the real and the present. When we read, we are transported somewhere else. There were those who believed that being fully present where we are and to those around us was a virtue and that anything that caused us to escape the present was unhealthy.

Now, as a book lover, I am grateful that those who resisted the expansion of the print media did not win the battle. I am glad that I can be transported outside my own little world with the reading of other’s ideas and stories. When I am stretched and discover realities beyond my knowing, I am richer for it.

And therefore, I am grateful for the digital age. It may be dangerous if it becomes a drug that keeps us from being present to those in the room with us. But by making possible access to more knowledge and more experience of the vast and exciting world we live in, I think we will all be enriched. It may be messy, but what a ride we can have.

WINTER BRAIN

I have finally figured out what is going on.  I have winter brain.

Winter brain is like the black walnut tree’s naked stems scratching the gray cold sky. There are marks suggesting thoughts, but they don’t create clear images. I stare at them and just when it seems they might reveal themselves, a frigid wind comes along and scatters the marks. The minimalist painting won’t stay in place long enough to form a coherent thought. And the glimpses of ideas that do exist in my brain seem to go into hibernation. They refuse to be found so I can share them with others.

This brain is so different from the baroque summer brain. When it is warm, my brain is filled with little creaturely ideas racing around, chasing each other. Ideas gather in little clusters, and like an intricate baroque paining, get embellished and flow with a flourish.  The fruits hang heavy on the trees and there is plenty of low-hanging thoughts to fill the senses.  

But winter thoughts trouble me.  They cause me to feel so unproductive. Will those seminal ideas ever return?  Will I ever be able to write and share again, or will they resist filling my mind and leave it cold and empty?

But, I am tired of worrying. And I am tired of the fear that they will continue to be as illusive as a butterfly in a snow-storm. I have decided to embrace winter brain. I have decided to accept the infertile ground, to rest in the space between the scattered minimalist marks.

And in the emptiness, I will trust that the frozen earth is doing what it needs to do—protect the seeds of fruit from the snow and cold. And I have given myself to waiting—sometimes patiently and sometimes impatiently—for the thaw that will soften the hard soil and yield fresh green plants who bud with the promise of abundant fruit. When that happens, I will share what gifts I receive with those within whom I share life.

CHRISTMAS EVE GRATITUDE

I read the sports page every day. There is something comforting about it. Most of the stories are about a games. Football, Basketball, Cricket, Soccer, Tennis.  I think the thing that is appealing about reading the sports page is that there are clear outcomes.  Winners and losers. Things get concluded, decided, wrapped up. There is a clear beginning and ending. There is arguing about whether the game should have ended as it did, but that fades quickly as there are more games to be played.

Occasionally there are stories that don’t fit that formula. And unfortunately, most of those have to do with lives messed up because of accidents or violent behavior toward family members or others in the community. 

But today, there is a different kind of story. It is a story about Adam Tatalovich who is a basketball coach in Perth, Australia.  And this is a story about all the people who helped him become a professional basketball coach. They were people he had met and one’s he had not. They were coaches and managers. He was aware that he didn’t make it where he was alone. This Christmas, he was remembering and thanking those many people.

Adam is 36 years old and he has dozens of people to thank. Being twice his age, I have hundreds of people. As I read the article, I am aware of all the people who have helped me along the way of my life. I started thinking about family members, friends, parishioners, students, shop keepers, service providers, mentors, authors, musicians, artists, poets, professors—innumerable people who have been gifts to me.

So, tonight when we go to the Christmas Eve service at church, I will remember. And I will carry all those people with me and lay them at the altar with a deeply grateful heart. The person I am is the result of the gift of love that has come from so many on my journey.