As part of an upcoming Geek and Greek podcast, Pastor Justin and I talked for a while about the nature of sermons. People tend to think of a sermon as one “expert” giving a lesson to an audience about God or scripture.
They think this because the church and its leaders have either actively promoted this idea or allowed it to stand over the years. It’s convenient for the church and especially the Pastor. It gives the central speaker power: not only their own, but the power to speak with the Voice of God (which conveniently always sounds like their own).
This idea is also convenient for most church-goers. All the interpretation and struggle have already been done. They get the Word in a bite-sized, easy-to-consume chunk, wrapped up and ready to go like a burger at the drive-thru.
Three groups get left of this simple sermon equation.
The first is people who are naturally inquisitive, ornery, or just thoughtful. Questions—even honest ones—have often been seen as a sign of personal doubt, an affront to the pastor, or an insult to God. People who ask them have been shunned or abandoned, to the church’s detriment.
The second is people undergoing suffering or transition, for whom easy, simple answers don’t work. This marginalized 5% has to nod and pretend that everybody else’s easy lesson applies to them too, which requires burying their pain instead of sharing it.
The third is God! Could you reduce your relationship with any person important to you to a simple phrase or lesson? No doubt you could describe *part* of it that way, but saying, “Here is what this person is--in one, easy sentence--and none of you shall think differently!” discredits the person you are talking about. When does that person get to speak for themselves? When do they get to be more than you describe them as?
The way we think of sermons is inadequate. Next time, we’ll explore a vision for what sermons could, and maybe should, be.