By Laura Siriani
The provocative title of Lisa Cressman’s book was intriguing for this deacon. Today, more than ever, we preachers are challenged to balance both courageous preaching and a pastoral commitment to our listeners. The Gospel People Don’t Want to Hear manages to weave both together in a compelling and practical narrative.
Cressman begins with the recognition that indeed the sky is falling, and we must let it fall. “God is already painting a new sky, and we’re all invited to grab a brush. That is the gospel people do not want to hear.” Whether it is loss of a job, a relationship, or the way we worship, we inevitably try to hold our sky in place. The preacher’s job is to help folks imagine a new sky.
Cressman maintains that the essence of a challenging sermon is not determined by the subject. It can be about love, forgiveness, or even guns. “A challenging sermon is determined by the relationship the listener has with their sky. ‘Are listeners willing to let their sky fall and hear the gospel?’
“Painting a new sky along with a congregation is ambitious and requires introspection and self-awareness on the part of the preacher. We are to ask the question: ‘Do listeners trust that we see them, and that we understand the turmoil of their lives?’”
Cressman does not just leave the reader with her timely observations but offers practical guidelines for preaching within her paradigm. I found her chapters on the preacher as a trusted guide and her sermon approaches to be relevant reminders of our responsibility as leaders of twenty-first century congregations that long to be seen and be heard.
The Rev. Laura Siriani is the Archdeacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
The Gospel People Don’t Want to Hear. Lisa Cressman. Minneapolis, Fortress Press: 2020. $18.99.