The Common Good

The Daringly Awkward Sermon Contest

Last month I started some contract work for Geez magazine. The Portland Oregonian described Geez as the bastard offspring of Adbusters and the New Testament.

I started just after they announced the "Daringly Awkward Sermon Contest." It's aimed at amateur preachers -- not religious pros paid to pontificate -- although the three contest winners will each get $400. It's meant for anyone who has a powerful message but no pulpit or podium to stand behind, someone with ideas and heart and a dose of earnestness, but without a congregation (or a nation) to back them up.

Here from my vantage point in Canada, that dreamy feeling from inauguration day is already fading. Three weeks on the job and it's clear that the new boss won't be able make the big problems go away. Every time another election comes and goes, I lose a bit more faith that powerful men and women will follow through on their noble rhetoric. So I keep looking for sources of hope from a bit closer to home, which is why I like Geez and our new sermon contest.

Last year's Geez contest called for "30 Sermons You'd Never Hear In Church." I didn't win, but they did print my sermon. It felt better to write my own sermon rather than complain about the toothless sermons I kept hearing in church. My colleague Aiden Enns preaches a lot of his own impromptu sermons. "The world needs bold voices of spiritual depth. But maybe the message can have an element of holy mischief, a smirk instead of a furrowed brow, and, at the same time, more connection to the pressing issues of the day."

I would encourage readers to send sermons of their own, even if they've never written one before. Awkward sermons from amateur preachers writing for a small, mischievous magazine won't rock the world like Obama and his cadre of writers and handlers can. But they might stir up some holy trouble to balance the spectacle of power.

Kurt Armstrong is the assistant publisher for Geez magazine.

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