Fred Craddock said lots of good things. Things in sermons about the Bible, about Jesus, about sin, about God, lots of good things. He also said some things about saying some things. That is because he taught about preaching.
Here's one of my favorites, paraphrased, "every preacher has a sermon, they just change names to protect the innocent and preach it over and over."
Some preachers have two sermons. Some of the best have three maybe even four. But all are guilty of the same "costuming."
I'm pretty sure I've got at least two sermons: God is God and you're not and that's good news.
My other sermon is something like "I once was a baptist and now I'm . . . "
I hope I have another two or three. Craddock would say "don't be greedy."
I know this: I've never, I repeat NEVER, felt like I was being left alone in a wilderness to struggle with finding something to say. The text is richer than what we read and the "word" does its work, often in spite of me.
This is not true for all preachers. But what Craddock said about preaching is true for each one of us. There are only a handful of life lessons that can fit into our rule books. We get one or two things down pat and just keep using them over and over.
Our capacity to learn and grow is always being challenged and we often just say "enough." We retreat back to things we already knew and dress them up as something new.
Think about how many of us -- I'm the worst -- listen just enough to reply and seldom enough to be changed. Seldom enough to get to that vulnerability where change happens. Instead we load our gun with "ready, fire, aim" responses that let us stay with what we know and all our habits.
It's as if we don't trust someone. It happens in preaching, too.
But trust is the threshold to learning. For preaching it starts with listening. Listening for the word that doesn't necessarily confirm what we've said before. Listening for that truth that is bigger than the one we used last week.
With people we look for matches, shared likes and dislikes, similarities. That's what makes Sunday morning the most segregated hour of the week.
Thanks be to God we don't go to church. Thanks be to God we ARE the church. So that wherever we go we are always being shown, called to listen to the others in our day-to-day lives and not the same old "sermons" redressed down to our size.
Trust is the threshold of learning. Learning to live with others who are not immediately like us. Since we've recognized the truth that God is with us always maybe now we can trust and listen like never before.