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A liberal religious voice in the Central
Valley since 1953.
Rev. James Kubal-Komoto, of the
in Des Moines, Washington (near Seattle) wrote these seven reminders about a
worship service and 20 tips for writing a sermon. (below). He
graciously gave us permission to copy them here for the benefit of our
members who are thinking about leading a worship service or writing a
Seven Points on a Theology of Worship
1. Worship is a religious activity.
"Religion" is all about connection and meaning.
Religion literally means to "connect again."
James Luther Adams: religion is about the search for "intimacy and
Through worship we "connect again" to ourselves, to one another, to nature,
to God/spirit/holy/divine; to the symbols and stories that give meaning to
the events of our lives; to our highest values and ideals.
2. What worship is not:
People looking for just intellectual stimulation should stay home and read
the New York Times or sign up for a community college class
A good worship service should inform, entertain, but most of all
3. Very broadly, a worship service should help us answer the question, "How
should we live our lives?"
If there is a gospel of liberal religion, it's not about pie in the sky when
you die. It's the promise that a more abundant life is possible in the here
4. Why worship is necessary from a liberal religious perspective:
Not necessary to glorify God
Not necessary because we are sinful
Necessary because we are forgetful
Necessary because we are distracted by competing cultural narratives
telling us how to live our lives
Necessary because we get disconnected
Important implication of this: A sermon doesn't have to tell us anything
new. A good sermon reminds us what we already ourselves know.
5. Good worship lifts us up, but good worship doesn't necessarily, however,
always have to be ecstatic.
Alice Walker: We come to church not to find God, but to share
A paraphrase: We come to church not always to experience that which is
inspiring, sustaining, transforming, and redeeming, but to remind us these
experiences are possible. We don't come to church rather than spending time
on top of mountains. We come to church to remind us to go back up to the top
6. People can even benefit from bad worship
Mark Twain: "I've never heard a sermon in which I could not find some good,
though there have been a few near misses."
7. At its best, however, worship should be transformative.
Kendyl Gibbons, First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis: No matter what
anyone tells you, everybody walks through the door of the sanctuary expecting
to be transformed
Top 20 Ideas about Writing and Delivering a Sermon
A sermon should be religious. It should address in some way the ultimate
of religious question, "How shall we live our lives?"
The purpose of a sermon is not to inform or to entertain - - though a
good sermon often does both of these - - but to inspire. A good sermon
transforms how people see the world. A good sermon is like a good joke. It
shifts our perspective.
A good sermon doesn't necessarily say anything new. Rather, it reminds
people of what they already know.
Write out a manuscript. Very few people preach well extemporaneously. One
of my typical sermons is 4-5 pages single-spaced and last 20-25 minutes. A
sermon shouldn't be shorter that 15 or longer than 30 minutes.
My secret formula for sermon writing: Tell one story. Explain what's
wrong about it. Tell a second story. Explain what's right about
Whatever you say, people will often hear what they need to hear from a
sermon. Give them a chance to do this. A good sermon shouldn't be written so
tightly that people can't drift in and out of it.
A sermon is always a relational event. It often helps to write a sermon
for a particular person or group of people even if that person doesn't show
up to hear it.
Include YOU in the sermon, but don't make it all about you. Make room for
Don't bleed on your audience. You probably shouldn't talk about stuff
you're going through now.
Be sensitive. Remember that it's possible or even likely that somebody
listening to your sermon has just found out his mother is dying, just found
out her spouse is cheating, just found out he's losing his job, or just found
out her child isn't doing well at school.
Land the plane. It's okay to talk about the heights or depths of human
experience, but don't do this unless you bring people back to a place of hope
where life is affirmed despite its limitations.
Use statistics sparingly. Avoid extensive quoting. Avoid blanket
statements. Avoid making assumptions about your audience. Avoid inappropriate
language or humor. When in doubt, leave it out.
A common mistake among beginning preachers is to try to include
everything they believe about everything in one sermon. Don't.
When I get stuck, most of the time it's because I'm trying to fit
something in - a story, a quotation, an idea - that doesn't
If you get stuck writing a sermon, get up and take a walk. Try talking to
somebody else about what you'd like to say.
When you print out your manuscript, print it out double-spaced with a
large font. I usually use a 20-point font. It also helps to print only on the
top half or two-thirds of the page.
Practice reading your sermon out loud several times before giving it.
Speak slowly. Don't mumble. Practice using a microphone.
If you're a little nervous about giving a sermon, that's a good thing.
The sermons I get most nervous about turn out to be my best.
Never apologize for a sermon, before, during, or after giving it. You may
say something that is transformative for somebody. By apologizing, you
belittle that experience.
Remember that sermons are transitory things. For better or worse, people
usually don't remember very good ones or very bad ones for very long, yet
they do make a difference in people's lives.
[Ed. note: We link to this page from the bottom of each Guest Sermon,
on the theory that members thinking about writing a sermon will look to
see what others have done. Rev. Kubal-Komoto's 20 tips are suggestions,
not a checklist. If you write a sermon, we don't judge you on how many
of his points you met.]
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Stanislaus County
2172 Kiernan Avenue
Modesto, California See a map
We have no mail service on Kiernan;
PO Box 1000
Salida, CA 95368
We are a liberal church and the only UU congregation in Stanislaus county.
We serve Ceres, Denair, Escalon, Hickman, Hughson, Keyes, Manteca, Modesto,
Oakdale, Patterson, Ripon, Riverbank, Salida, Turlock and Waterford.
We welcome Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Deists, Free-thinkers,
Humanists, Jews, Pagans, Theists, Wiccans, and those who seek their own spiritual
path. We welcome people without regard to race, physical ability, ethnicity or