Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Sermon

This section of PAGAN Christianity was interesting to me (it goes with the Pastor and the Hierarchy stuff as well not to mention the seminary - but we will get to that).

I'm particularly interested in the sermon because I'm a speaker... now, I've always wrestled with 'the word' being the central part of our gatherings... I don't mean that I think Scripture isn't central - I just always wondered why one person telling us what the 'word' was is the central part of our meetings. Not to mention that the sermon is often the most boring part of the meeting - the hardest to pay attention to and the biggest waste of time in a local leader's life in preparation, delivery and impact. Athough I often meet frustrated local 'pastors' who spend a significant amount of time in their week on the 'sermon' I rarely meet people who have been converted through 'the word'. It's almost always the impact a person makes in their real life.... not a half-hour to hourly time of exegesis... actually, if I'm honest I rarely meet people who can remember 'the word' a few days later. For those salvationists out there you may want to get ahold of William Booth's How To Preach and give it a quick read - it's likely to blow you away!! ;-)

Apparently the practice of a 'speech' or 'sermon' was borrowed from the Greek sophists who were masters at oratory and rhetoric. These were also intimately connected to entertainment... It was when Constantine brought in the church buildings enmasse and connected with the establishing of the 'clergy' or professional christian leader the sermon began to take on a much bigger and more important role. Up until that time of course Christianity was something lived out in the everyday... it wasn't a 'theory' or an abstract principle it was about how one lived their whole lives (think Judaism).

Actually a friend and I were just discussing how in the Hebrew culture everything is much more rooted in community and experience - for example all the feasts and sacrifices etc.. were all hard to do - every family having to make a journey and slaughter their own animals and the feasts like passover and even the feast of tabernacles (where you build a make shift house to remind them of the time in the wilderness etc...) it's all very hands on. I remember getting ready for passover one year and inviting a few cell groups over to our house to rid it of 'yeast'. It was incredible. First, who knew how many things have yeast in them??? and second, what an unforgettable experience about the reality of sin and how to get it out of our lives and the cost involved in it etc... it was incredible. Better than any meeting on passover I'd ever been too. Way better than any sermon I've ever heard.

Anyway, I'm not sure how we managed to turn a community focused, equality driven, everyday life living movement into a professionalized, sermonizing ritual that makes both halves of your body go to sleep... but we did. Now, can speaking be useful? yes of course. have I been impacted by sermons. Yes of course. Do I give them? Yes. Are they central to my faith? No, absolutely not.

This post is a little long... I'll follow it up in a bit... needless to say in order to grow up in Christ I need more than already been chewed food (the sermon) and a mind numbing weekly ritual... I need Christ in me the hope of glory - I need the reality of the everyday being infused with living water and hope and light and peace... I need Jesus to show up in everything, all the time - revealing the great adventure he's set me on...


Anonymous said...

Preaching is very different from speaking. I'm convinced that the reason so many sermons are so weak is because we are just talking... preaching convicts!

Matt K

Bernard said...

Hi Danielle,

In Mark 1v38, Jesus said that one of His purposes whilst on earth was to 'preach'.

In Luke 24v45-48, He says that the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins was to be 'proclaimed' in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. In Acts 2 we see How Peter did it.

After the Lord called Paul (Acts 9), he immediately went into the synagogues 'proclaiming' Jesus (v20).

In 2 Timothy 4v2, one of Paul's charges to Timothy was to 'preach' the Word.

(Obviously, there are many other references to the place and function of preaching in the Scriptures.)

I think I would agree with Matt K that preaching is very different to speaking ... and my understanding is that 'true' preaching empowered by the Spirit (and herein perhaps lies the challenge to every pastor/preacher) ... is one of the vital factors that actually contributes to what I would fully agree is both yours and mine and everyone's need ...

...I need Christ in me the hope of glory - I need the reality of the everyday being infused with living water and hope and light and peace... I need Jesus to show up in everything, all the time - revealing the great adventure he's set me on...

Keep seeking after Him, and walking the adventure with Him.



Sean said...

Preach the Gospel always, use words when necessary. I think I heard that somewhere.

Jim Dunstan said...

Danielle: I hear what you're saying and I agree with some. I'm clearly a product of being a Salvationist my whole life, but I feel that without the sermon, our meetings could become nothing but entertainment (see some of the televangelists who throw in a short Jesus comment to justify the rest of the show). One can listen to the band, songsters, worship team etc and either be blessed or simply enjoy it on a more shallow level, but the sermon (should) make one focus on the Lord and applicability to our life. It's like all the other stuff is the appetizer but the sermon is the main course. Sure, I can feast on the former, but I won't be fulfilled without the latter.


Graham said...

I just read in Bonhoeffer's Letters from Prison that Jesus never preached to the thieves crucified alongside him. No sermon, no trying to persuade them that they should love God, no plea that they should renounce sin, seek forgiveness, etc. I had never thought about this before.

Jesus simply responded to the cry of one.

No sermon!

Thank you for a thought provoking blog.