Life passed through the fire of thought

From the Heart

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes that a sermon is “life passed through the fire of thought.” In this Emerson challenges me – and other preachers – to make our sermons about our own lives, rather than solely about abstract intellectual or scriptural topics.

And yes, Emerson hopes we will apply what we’ve learned about science and religion and current affairs to our lives when we preach. That’s the “fire of thought” part.

Emerson also tells us we cannot instruct others in a sermon. He says:

“Truly speaking, it is not instruction, but provocation, that I can receive from another soul. What they announce, I must find true in me, or reject. . .”

Here Emerson tells us a preacher’s message must resonate with the truth in the hearts of those attending. I quibble with him a little and see this as inspiration or cultivation rather than provocation. That said, I fundamentally agree with Emerson. When I preach, I hope to inspire changes of heart, to cultivate new possibilities in the hearts of those attending.

Let’s find a time to talk about the ways our hearts might be changed as we attend to sermons.

Love to all,
Rev. George Buchanan