These stories all originated in the context of preaching. I didn't want to state that fact at the outset, for the word "sermon" carries with it all sorts of baggage. All too often we consider it something that is "done to us," a moralistic harange. Nobody wants to be "preached at" right? Ideally, though, a sermon touches life, it's an intersection between a word from God and our everyday walk. An appropriate response to a real sermon is "Amen," - "Yes, that's how it is, or how it should be."

When I first began telling stories on Sunday morning, a nagging suspicion plagued me: is this really a sermon? To be honest, I continue to ask myself this question, even though I know that God's message to us in the Bible is more often in the form of a story. Somehow, adults believe that stories must end when childhood is over. Or, if we tell stories in sermons, we call them "illustrations" and use them merely to make a point. How foreign that idea is to the Bible, which is itself a story.

One thing I've discovered in various congregations is that older folks listen intently to children's messages. The goal of this special time with children during worship, though, is to focus solely upon the little ones, and not secretly preach to the gallery of adults. To work at preventing that, I periodically preach a story during the "Sermon" time.

Originally, I thought I was doing this to get children involved in the sermon. I did notice many little ones would actually listen. Story sermons are thus a valuable addition to our heavily "adult oriented" services. I have intentionally tried to view life from a child's perspective in many of my story sermons, including children as main characters, or the bearers of Good News.

But, more and more, I wonder if adults don't get just as involved in these story sermons as children. I have noticed that those who usually struggle staying awake on a Sunday morning seem to have their eyes open as I preach these stories. That could, however, be wishful thinking on my part.

I try to vary my styles of preaching. Stories allow further variety. It should be noted that I rarely preach a story sermon more than once every other month. I don't wish to overuse the medium. I also respect those who don't consider this a "sermon". But there's another reason for not preaching stories more often.

You see, I like writing story sermons. They are my favorite. They come most easily from my imagination. With that in mind, there is enough of the Protestant work ethic ingrained in my being that I am suspicious of anything so easy. A sermon, like any kind of labor, has to be "sweated" out, doesn't it? Valid or not, this rationale subtly affects how often I preach a story sermon.

Like everyone else, I struggle with accepting God's Grace as a gift. I enjoy writing story sermons so much because they move so freely within me, almost writing themselves. They feel like a gift. Every sermon should be seen as a gift, if we believe in the inspirational presence of the Giver. But some sermons seem to touch me more, as the preacher...these stories.

In a similar vein, a poor self-image often masks itself as humility in me. I secretly wonder why anyone would want to listen to what I have to say on a Sunday morning, especially if I am preaching a story sermon. A friend, Russ Keat, challenged this sad excuse for humility, and it was his prodding that encouraged me toward the folly of creating this (online) book. We all need such friends.

1996Peter L. Haynes

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