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Rev. Richard J. Fairchild

From time to time we have inquiries about Narrative Sermons - and in particular - about our own narrative sermons. We are asked not only if we have more of them (I don't write them very often), but what we think of narrative as a sermon form.

Recently I answered one such query from a seminarian / theological student. My response is what follows - and includes a few links to our own narrative sermons to make it easier to access them.

Do you provide any help for Theological students? I am doing narrative preaching at the moment.
Well, I can only provide help by example and suggest my view of narrative preaching.

I have a number of narrative sermons on my site. Some I wrote well over a decade ago, some only in the last three or four years. I have each one tagged as a narrative sermon, but, till now haven't had a special link to them. They are found as a seamless part of our "Year A Sermons", "Year B Sermons" and "Year C Sermons" pages.

I heard my first set of Narrative Sermons at the Berwick Camp of the United Church of Canada located in Nova Scotia almost twenty years ago. They were composed and delivered by a true master of the form - Michael E. Williams.

I wrote my first narrative sermon - Crumbs From The Table - a month later. I still regard this first effort as one of my best because of how the narrative form allowed me to deal with what is an otherwise very difficult passage.

For me a narrative sermon should be deeply connected to the text. Almost all my narrative sermons are actually set in the "biblical" or textual context - they are retelling of the passage of scripture from the point of view of one of the participants in the scriptural story or from a bystander's view.

One of my sermons breaks this mode. A Narrative Sermon for Ordinary 24 - Year A retells the parable of the unforgiving servant story in a modern context. Perhaps because the original story is a parable this worked well. When you look at the story closely, however, you will see that the structure and the images suggested by the original text guide the whole process. Only the context is 'modern'.

Many of the 'narrative' sermons I have read over the last years I do not regard as true narrative sermons because they ignore the structure and images of the original text and, because all too often they do not 'retell' the story of the text. In my opinion these story telling sermons are "applications" or "illustrations" of the text in the modern world, albeit done in story form.

Of course interpretation drives the process in both "application stories" and in what I call "narrative sermons", but in the latter the text more directly helps to provide the images and the key words or actions of the characters in the story. A Jesuit Priest once told me that his way of ensuring that the congregation heard 'the word of God' when he preached was by repeating the text at least three times during his sermon or homily.

I think that a narrative sermon should repeat the text and dance with the text and delight in the text and make people more able to visualize and meditate on all the other texts that they hear and read.

The important thing is what my Jesuit friend pointed to: the proclamation of the good news about the Living Word of God - the word that lives among us today. I think narrative sermons as I define them can do that and do do that. And I also think that "application stories" do it as well. And that is why I also have a fair number of 'sermons' in our larger collection that are little more than the telling of a modern fable or myth. But the following are not those.

A Few Narrative Sermons: If you would like to add to the list send along your narrative sermon to us at the address below. If we think we can use what you have written we will. It is good, of course, if the sermon is tied to a text in the three year cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary.
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2002 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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