September 11, 2007

In-tense

It's enough to drive me crazy.

I may have written about this before, but it's a problem that just won't go away. Whenever I sit down and start writing a sermon, I usually start by mentioning something that Jesus said or did. This week, it's the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Jesus told the crowds these parables.

Then, somewhere in the middle of the sermon, I stop talking about the parables Jesus told, and start talking about the parables Jesus tells. The shepherd who searched for his lost sheep becomes the shepherd who searches for his lost sheep. The woman who swept her house, searching for the lost coin, becomes the woman who sweeps her house, searching for her lost coin.

Yes, I confess the awful truth: I can't keep my tenses straight.

I offer my deepest apologies to Mrs. Gann and Mrs. Leonard, my high school English teachers; and to Myron Yeager, my college professor who, for some reason, thought I should major in English. Perhaps if I had become an English major, keeping my tenses straight wouldn't be quite so hard.

I wonder, though, if my tendency to shift from past to present tense--improper though it may be--is somehow appropriate to the task of sermon writing. After all, the things Jesus said, he says to us. The stories from scripture are our stories, too.

I guess there is some consolation for my inability to always write in proper English.

3 comments:

Doug Jones said...

yes - while improper... it is entirely proper... the living word is best when we are able to move from being informed to being formed... from being observers of something past to being participants in it's real time unfolding...

oh that the church would again see the living word as present tense!!

[rhymes with kerouac] said...

I've never had the pleasure of hearing one of your sermons, but I'm sure they is all just fine.

Brian said...

I recently gave what I thought was a great sermon on the Good Samaritan, focusing on how we are like the guy laying in the ditch. Afterwards, a woman came up to me and said, "Your sermon was perfectly fine, but you really need to learn the difference between the words lay and lie." Ouch! I guess that day the spirit of grammar was the one REALLY speaking to her!