Saturday, December 06, 2008

Thinking more about spiritual experience

I finished the sermon this morning and, as always, I found that, though I had some specific ideas about what I wanted to say, the sermon had a mind of its own and pretty much wrote itself. I checked back over the brainstorming I'd done earlier and tucked away in the folder for Dec. 7 and saw that most of my ideas had made it into the text, but in a different way than I had expected.

I think this is a manifestation of the still small voice, that we can't always state our wisdom in the terms that we might want to use. Sometimes another source guides the words. I don't know what to call that---I don't believe that "everything happens for a reason"and therefore it's God writing the sermon. I do believe that we give meaning to what happens, we learn to look for the unexpected outcomes of what happens, to look beyond the event for its consequences on down the line.

Coming back to the actual topic of this post---I regularly discover that if I let go of my specific ideas and let the sermon write itself it turns out better than if I agonize over every word and sentence structure. I tend to write out of my heart, then go back and "deliver" what I've written orally and see if it is true to my experience and coherent from beginning to end. It takes me most of the week to do this. If I saved my sermon writing for Saturday morning, for example, it would not work for me. I need cogitation time---not just thinking time but percolating time, time for the ideas to coalesce and become something more than just words.

I'm happy with my method and I'm usually happy with my writing. It took me aback once to get a message from another blogger, who shall remain nameless, that my writing turned her stomach. It made me think about my style and the topics I choose for posts, which was useful, but her need to insult me stung and I quickly lost any respect for her as a voice, for I saw her do the same thing to others and realized that this was not a voice I needed to heed. I think that kind of experience is useful, for it causes us to take stock, to develop our own voice, and to think hard about the feedback we get.

I'm looking forward to delivering this sermon tomorrow. I'm including several periods of silence, once again, for I am starting to believe that we need more silence in worship, that we need not fill every space with words, that in the interstices there is opportunity for growth. I'll post it tomorrow afternoon. See you then.


Joel Monka said...

Regardless of the process, I have always greatly appreciated your writing. It's easy to read, but a catalyst for thoughts and emotions less easily figured out. However you do it, keep doing it!

ms. kitty said...

Joel, you sweetheart, thanks. You made my day!

Anonymous said...

Silence is crucial. The poet Tagore wrote, "The small truth has words that are clear; the great truth has great silence."

Joel said...

It took me aback once to get a message from another blogger, who shall remain nameless, that my writing turned her stomach.

Ouch! Who on earth would say something like that? I'll admit you occasionally make me grit my teeth (I suspect on purpose), but turn a reader's stomach? That's vile!

Anon, I'll see your Tagore and raise you an Ursula LeGuin: "For a word to be spoken, there must be silence before and after." Not sure exactly what it means, but if you say it in the right tone of voice it sounds very profound.

ms. kitty said...

Thank you, Anon.

LinguistFriend said...

I would add to Joel's comment my appreciation that your writing is literate, which my students convince me is a dying skill. Furthermore, your ways of thinking hardly ever come out of contemporary fads, and on the whole you give appropriate regard to relevant preceding religious tradition.
On another level, it is in writing poetry, not sermons, that I myself have most often had to figure out afterwards what I was talking about. Then I could go back and make things clearer and more pointed. The process of writing was slow, and perhaps that is part of why I gave up such composition several decades back.

ms. kitty said...

Joel the Neff, I'm sorry to have been late publishing your comment---it must have gotten lost in space, as I didn't find it till this morning.