Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

Amble and Ramble

            A number a years ago I began leaving the pulpit during some of my sermons, delivering them without any notes whatsoever. In the beginning these were mostly character portrayals, with me pretending I was someone from the Bible. At the time, a church member jokingly called this my "amble and ramble" style, and the title stuck. In recent years I have done more and more "amble and ramble" sermons, often not as dramas. In this style, the message is composed solely in my head, and often undergoes a great deal of change in the actual presentation.

            How does this differ from an outline approach which also does not move with a manuscript? Well, I must confess, I am not an "outline" sort of thinker. Perhaps I should be, but that style never stuck with me. For me, a sermon is a journey, like life itself. I don't operate on a daily basis with an introduction, thee points, and a conclusion. My life is a bit messier. I end up ambling and rambling a lot.*

            In fact, that's also reflected in my prayer life, which seems best when I am in a "Tevye" mode. Do you recall this main character from the musical, "Fiddler on the Roof?" In it, as Tevye walks through his day work, tending his farm and delivering his pushcart of milk, he speaks with his God. He ambles and rambles with God, and this conversation provides the narration for the musical. My own prayer life is like that. When I sit and contemplate, I too easily am distracted or fall asleep. Something about the walking, the ambling aids my spirit. When I forget that this "wandering" actually benefits my spiritual "wondering," I get lost in the wilderness. Does that make sense?

            It seems natural for my prayer style to influence how I preach, even more so after my visit with our sister church in the Dominican Republic. There, Pastor Miguel delivers a message nearly every night of the week, for worship is integral to their daily (yes, every evening!) life. Obviously, this daytime school teacher/builder/gardener (i.e. bi-vocational) does not have the time to write out a manuscript. His example is influencing my own walk back home. It is becoming harder to write out my sermons, and much easier to "amble and ramble," which is telling me something.

            Therefore, if you do not find my sermon written out, it is either because I did not write it out to start with, or have not transcribed it - something I have done on occasion.  I'd like to think that this proves you can teach an old dog new tricks or, better put, that God can still do some new things with middle-aged nuts like me.

Along the Way,       
Pete Haynes

*for an alternate view, I must include the view of another member of my congregation, who writes, "I want you to know that "Amble & Ramble" does not describe your delivery of a sermon without a "manuscript."  I think most reading the phrase "A & R" would wonder if you just go from one thing to another with not much organization or thought.  That is not what you do . . . you do a wonderful job of delivering the message from your head."   :)


2005 Peter L. Haynes
(you are welcome to borrow and, where / as appropriate, note the source - myself or those from whom I have knowingly borrowed.)

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