Tonight I got home late from a meeting. Even though it was far into the evening, I had a mission before me -- I had heard it might freeze tonight, so I went out and clipped off as much of the basil and mint as I could get my hands on. It's in the refrigerator so far; I don't have long, though, before I have to figure out what to do with it, other than pesto.
For a short while, though, it was sitting on the kitchen counter, and its only job was to fill the whole kitchen with those fresh, slightly exotic smells. The smells leaked onto my hands and into the living room a little bit, too. (the basil, I guess, was an overachiever, aroma-wise.)
Earlier in the week, I had the opportunity to attend a preaching seminar at the local seminary. Called A Celebration of Biblical Preaching, the event featured daily worship, keynote lectures and small group workshops. The first workshop I attended was called "The Essential Sermon", by the new preaching professor at the seminary. I remember one line in particular from his presentation: He had been a parish pastor, then returned to school. He and his family were looking for a church home, but were not finding an easy time settling down. Someone asked him, "What do you want a sermon to do?" He answered, "I want the sermon.... to break my heart." He made me think: What do I want a sermon to do?
Another highlight was when someone asked Anna Carter Florence what she thought about churches that put worksheets in the bulletin, with fill-in-the-blanks for sermon answers. "Oh, no parishoner left behind!" she answered.
It was great to be on the seminary campus; I remembered how much I loved being a student. I loved getting ideas and writing papers, studying Greek, the camaraderie among the students.
I'm thinking about the smell of the basil and the mint, filling the kitchen tonight, and the hope of the flavors unleashed in yet-unknown recipes.
I'm thinking about preaching a sermon, hearing a sermon, and the question: What do I want a sermon to do?
I want the sermon to fill the room with a certain aroma, an aroma of something fresh from the garden, and an aroma that promises flavors unleashed in yet-unknown corners of the world.
Can a sermon have an aroma? Can a sermon have a flavor? An aroma of life? And a flavor of justice and mercy, mercy and justice?
I'm bringing the basil in from the garden, in the nighttime, when it is already dark. I'm gathering hope, before it is too late.