Your Blog Steward

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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Who writes your sermon?

Once I was a preacher. Over the first 20 years of my ministry I preached a lot of sermons in a lot of pulpits in a lot of places. I've preached in front of 12 people, 1000 people, in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, living rooms, and bars. I have quite a collection of sermons in folders and on disks. (Truth be told, I stopped writing outlines for my sermons about 2009. I still created outlines, but I committed them to memory, and pretty much preached with just a Bible in my hand.)

As I look back on those outlines from 1989 or 1998 or 2003 or even 2009, some of the actual sermons I can remember...most I cannot. And if that's true for me, the one who created and delivered the sermons, I cannot imagine what my hearers remember? If I can recall one out of 20, what is their rate? 1 from 100? 1 from 500? 

As I sit here and read through these outlines, I wonder how I created them, or who actually wrote them? Why did I think THAT was a good idea? What had I heard or seen that led me to believe THIS is the issue at hand? These outlines are wonderful snapshots of a mind at prayer, but they only capture a moment or two of much larger forces at work. I suppose we all have these times when our pasts intrude upon our present thoughts, but who writes your sermons?

By that I mean who really creates what your say and do? In Christianity we have a wonderful verse of scripture from Paul that reads, "I don't understand my own actions, because I do not do the thing I want, but the very thing I hate." (Romans 7.15) Tell me about it brother. Have you ever had that happen to you? Why do we do things we know are bad for us, things that we don't respect? Why are we so self-destructive at times?

It is true that we are wildly creative and beneficial to ourselves as well. Sometimes we don't do the things we hate, but rather we do what we love. But here's the thing that's funny about this situation. What I mostly "hate" is helping my neighbor. I know I should help them, I know the world is a better place when we do, but I really don't want to do that kind of stuff. As a product of my generation I believe in things like "winning," success, competition for scarce resources, pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, taking responsibility for your own manifest destiny. These self-interested notions are the ones I want. To be honest, I would rather be working somewhere, making some money, dealing with the problems of creating sermons that I won't remember in 20 years...that's what I'd "want" to be doing.

But doing what I "want" never lasts for me. What I "want" rarely coincides with what is beneficial, helpful or good for me, much less everybody else. What I "want" is to work to have money, to have people depend upon me for something, to have responsibility to things I cannot control. What I want is what it seems like everybody on TV has.

But that's not what I spend my time doing these days. (Eventually all the people I owe money to will see the issue with this situation, but gentle reader you and I will not tell them yet.) I spend my time helping neighbors out with their ministries and projects, and that often turns out to be good times. Paul's line to the folks in Rome didn't include one crucial point about the things we do (but he does include it elsewhere): unless the things we do are within the orbit of God's grace what we do doesn't matter. And as that orbit encompasses the universe...there's lots of leeway. Since what we "want" is often diametrically opposed to what we hate, and what we "want" often leads to our own death and destruction, perhaps we should spend more time doing things we "hate?" Perhaps we should work against the self-interest we want, and help our neighbor even if we hate it? Perhaps when we write the sermons of our lives we should focus on what we hate, and do that as a way to live those sermons?

Every day we write the sermons of our lives...who writes your's?

May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.

1 comment:

pwlsax said...

You leave the reader open to doing things he hates simply because he hates them. What is the point?