Peter Gomes is an American Baptist minister who has served in The Memorial Church at Harvard University since 1970. Gomes is also the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and is the Pusey Minister in The Memorial Church. Gomes is commonly regarded as one of the most distinguished preachers in America. He was named Clergy of the Year in 1998 by Religion in American Life and offered prayers in the inaugurations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
Educated at Bates College and the Harvard Divinity School, Revered Gomes alsoholds thirty-six honorary degrees. He is the author of numerous books on the Bible, including the national best-sellers TheGood Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart and Sermons:Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living.
Question: What inspires you?
Peter Gomes: It’s always something new. You’re always discovering something new. When I work with the biblical text, I’m always discovering something I hadn’t seen before. When I talk with people, I’m always hearing things I hadn’t heard before. It is notever did I say that?” Well it was because I was in a different place than where I am right now. Very unlikely that I would ever repeat an Easter or Christmas sermon, because Easter this yearlast year. It is not standing in the same place and just hoping people will remember and go along. It’s a new chemical reaction. It’s a new sensation. It’s an extraordinary enterprise. I never give the same sermon twice because I’m never in the same place twice. I’m always reacting. And I’m reacting to the text, I’m reacting to the circumstances, I’m reacting to the congregation. It’s a very different phenomenon every time. So if you’re . . . If you try to give the same sermon twice – and I have tried to do that – it’s a fruitless exercise. You’re simply going in reverse gear. You’re always trying to remember, “Well what worked the last time? How can I get the same effect?” And you’re retrieving instead of advancing. I’d rather the risk of getting it wrong but moving along forward, then recapturing some idealized moment in the past. And I think that’s what – again, to use my musical analogy – I think that’s what conductors do. They do not try to reproduce their ideal moment. They try to make new discoveries along the way, which is why no conductor ever conducts the Beethoven Fifth in the same way. the “same old, same old” by any stretch of the imagination. And the proof of that for me is I read some of my old sermons and I say, “Oh my goodness! How is, for me, very different from Easter
Recorded on: 6/12/07