Thursday, October 17, 2013

Book Review: Sermons From the National Cathedral

While some families took their summer vacation at the beach, ours did not. My parents loved to travel and after packing the car we set out on our adventures. Adventures they were! I was lucky to have traveled up and down the Eastern Seaboard visiting big cities like Montreal and Quebec as well as smaller towns in Rhode Island, Virginia, nad Maryland. One year we visited Washington, DC. I vividly remember walking up and down the Mall as well as visiting the Lincoln Memorial. We also visited the National Cathedral. I do not remember the details but I do remember how small I felt in this large building. It was the first cathedral that I ever visited. I do remember the large vaulted ceilings and the hundreds of rows of pews. Later on in my life I was lucky enough to visit sister cathedrals like Notre Dame, Salisbury, York Minster (my favorite so far), as well as the famous Canterbury Cathedral.

Sermons From the National Cathedral: Soundings For the Journey is a collection of sermons by Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III the former Dean of the Cathedral. His picture is on the cover which itself is simply gorgeous. He is standing in the pulpit which we are told in the book was a gift from the trustees of the Canterbury Cathedral in England. I learned that Lloyd was not only the Dean of the Cathedral but after a few years decided, after much prayer and reflection, that he was called back to parish life. He is now the priest in charge  of Trinity Church in Boston. Ironically he served at Holy Trinity Church before going to the National Cathedral, so in many ways he returned back to his roots. Just that simple fact of saying no to the deanship and all that it entails; prestige, notoriety, media attention, and influence should tell us a lot about this pastor already.  It takes a lot of humility and meekness to turn down a gig like being the Dean of a major cathedral, not just any cathedral but the National Cathedral!

Lloyd's humility comes through on the printed page as well. These are perhaps a selection of hundreds of sermons which he must have delivered and I assume these are probably the better ones or maybe ones that reflect his overarching pastoral ministry. The collection is divided into three parts: Reflections on Faith, Events and Issues, and The Church Year.

As someone who is both a full time pastor and preacher as well as writer I know full well how hard it is, seemingly impossible at times, to offer a word of hope, encouragement, and inspiration on a weekly basis. There are times when I feel high and dry yet I need to muster up a word about The Word to my congregation. Reading these sermons was an act of lectio divina for me, or slow divine or meditative reading.  Sermons are not read like a novel or the front page of the newspaper. Rather, sermons are like poems or prayers. After reading each sermon I took a while and reflected on the words, images, and stories that he told. Serving as the dean of a major cathedral was probably very time consuming and his days were very busy, yet I was surprised at the sheer amount of poems, quotes, and anecdotes that were included in many of his homilies which is a testimony that even a dean of a cathedral still finds time to read and reflect, feeding his own soul so that he can feed others.

I do not have a favorite sermon or story but I did like the sermons in the first part the best. They seemed more immediate, more timely than the others somehow.

If you are a pastor and in need of some inspiration or a serious Christian who likes to read and reflect upon Scripture than look no further than Sermons From the National Cathedral. You won't be disappointed.

For more information about Sermons From the National Cathedral: Soundings for the Journey click here