The third way I am learning to practice presence involves the primary calling upon my life, the vocation of preaching. My biggest preaching influence has been one of my preaching professors in seminary, Dr. Ellsworth Kalas. And one of the most valuable things I have learned from Dr. Kalas is that to preach you must have three love affairs in your life: to Christ, to the people to whom you preach (not just vague humanity, but the individuals on the other end of the sermon), and to the sermon you are preaching today. Yes, a preacher must be in love with the sermon…this sermon. Otherwise, the preacher has no business preaching it. Dr. Kalas also taught me, as the title of his book suggests, that preaching must come from the human soul. This is where preaching connects with the title of this blog, Practicing Presence. For a beautiful and mysterious reason our Triune God of relational community chooses to speak into humanity through other humans. He uses souls to connect with other souls in this profound transmission of soul-changing truth and inspiration. I would daresay there is rarely a more intimate encounter near strangers can have than for one to preach and others to receive. It involves the connection of souls. So, it is no wonder that so many preachers get approached by individuals they are not aware they knew, called by first name, and talked to as if the deepest of life events has been shared as the sermon recipient speaks through tears. When this happens I realize I have succeeded in something – not only have I sufficiently communicated a message from God (a message I’m in love with), but I have borne my soul. I have practiced presence.
“One should preach not from one’s rational mind but rather from the heart. Only that which is from the heart can touch another heart.” ― Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica