What I learned about preaching from watching Masterchef

I gorged on Masterchef in my week off after Easter as I’d missed that a new series was on and so watched 13 episodes back to back in bed on my iPad! I’ve already managed to get that into a sermon (I preached on the gospel where Jesus asks for a piece of fish all about the centrality of food to the resurrection accounts!)

Watching Masterchef on my iPad
Watching Masterchef on my iPad

Watching so many episodes in a row enabled me to see the progress of the contestants ‘up close’ so to speak. This made me reflect a bit on my last year as a deacon and particularly on how I’ve developed as a preacher.

At the beginning of Masterchef, the contestants like to show off any special techniques they know. There’ll be something sous vide; there’ll be a smear of some kind of puree on the plate; there’ll be a quenelle somewhere; perhaps some crisped chicken skin and, this year, lots of the desserts included some kind of ‘soil’ (not very appetising sounding is it?) Usually, they either mess up the technique or get them right but just have too many ingredients on the plate.

I know my sermons were like this right at the beginning. Fresh out of theological college with a load of unthumbed bible commentaries I was all ready to show my credentials, to show off stuff that I’d found out. What would happen when I appeared before the ‘judges’ was that they said things like ‘this purée here was delicious but was totally overpowered by your sauce, that was the only thing we could taste’.

As the Masterchef series goes on you start to see contestants learn to keep things simple, put fewer ingredients on the plate, not give themselves so many processes to follow under the tight time constraints available.

I have started to learn the same things. I’ve learnt that I don’t necessarily have to preach on every verse of that week’s gospel reading – focusing on just one verse can work (and let’s face it, with at least 30 years in ministry ahead of me, God-willing, I will preach through the lectionary quite a few times!) I’ve also learnt that it’s a good idea to source your ingredients locally – this will then resonate with the congregation better.

I’m definitely not Masterchef final standard yet, but I’m learning and the metaphor of the Masterchef signature dish is one I will keep in mind each time I sit down to prepare a sermon. Think: ‘what would Gregg and John say if this sermon was a dish?’

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