“I looked on astounded as from his ordinary life he made his art. We were both ordinary men, he and I. Yet from the ordinary he created Legends--and I from Legends created only the ordinary!” (Salieri on Mozart in Amadeus).
I wonder how many people leave church on a Sunday thinking something similar. Salieri was an accomplished composer favoured by the Austrian Emperor. The film Amadeus portrays his rivalry with Mozart, and, comparing their craft, Salieri draws this distinction – both are ordinary, both have access to wonderful material; the one turns “legend” into ordinary, the other turns ordinary into legend. If, as Leonard Sweet claims (Giving Blood 2014), “boredom is the deadliest sin of a preacher”, perhaps the next deadliest is to render the wonder of the word of God dull.
It is an oddity of church life that those who claim to think most highly of Scripture treat it with least reverence. Scripture, the somehow God-breathed words of life, are carved up into meaningless morsels of banality, while the actual focus of the sermon becomes prosaic platitudes either garnered from some simplistic book of superficial spirituality, or based on a few minutes breakfast time thought. No wonder that so many people feel the Bible is irrelevant. Thus presented, it is.
Preaching is the art and craft of getting people to want what they don’t know they need but can’t truly live without: daily experiences of Christ. Telling them what they need does not inspire them to embark on the adventure of finding it. Giving them an experience of Christ in the sermon might awake a hunger for more. As Saint-Exupery said “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”