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Eric's Sunday Sermon; A Sermon Is About You
Just another climb to make
To think about, not what to think
There I was doing what I like to do before the sun comes up. That would be reading my Bible and meditating on the Word. Pretty strange stuff to do for someone. If you think about it sitting there all alone and reading a 2,000 year old text and then continuing to sit there and think about it is strange by most standards. But hey it works for me.
Now do not get me wrong as I attend church regularly. I like it. I like the traditions and my son and I like to see the folks who attend and we like the hugs and handshakes and the being nice to each other. And in our case we love the music. We kind of get dressed up, no ties thank you. We always talk about what we learned in church with each other and it leads to nice meaningful discussions about something that is important to both of us. Just last night after a rough pillow fight he just said out of the blue – “I sure love God”.
So then one would ask if I do all that; why don’t I quote more scripture in these Sunday Sermons. And why do I use the title Sunday Sermon when just the thought of a sermon turns a whole lot of people off. Well the answer to both is wrapped up into one simple answer. That is not my purpose and softening the attitude toward a sermon is part of my purpose. You see the sermon cannot be about me but rather about you. Normally when we think of a sermon we think of a preacher citing scripture and then telling us what it means. I prefer not citing scripture and questioning what it means. One can see and read and study scripture on their own and they should. You see I think that the Bible is a “to me” book of good thoughts. In my home I will read a verse to my young son and ask him what it means to him. Of course there is guidance as some of the words need to be explained and some of the historical context needs to be explained. We do not live on a farm and gathering wheat kind of needs some explanation. Pictures are helpful.
Wow – that was long winded just to get to this point. (Perhaps another reason people do not care for sermonizing ;-)
Not another sermon dad!
You don't another hero
Think of it this way. What if I were to write a nice short story here? How would you like it if I stopped every few lines and explained what I was doing in following the rules of grammar? They kind of do that in legal writing and the common response is BORING and confusing. Now you in your life have the same quandary. Should I just say what I am thinking or should I go into a long winded explanation of why I am thinking in that way? And finally I get to discuss, empathy.
Now Paul is writing to the Corinthians who are having a tough road to hoe with regard to treating folks like they are all children of God and equal in the eyes of the Lord. In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 he talks about having to be all things to all people so that they will abide by him and listen to what he has to say, which is important. What he is really describing in modern terms is what we call empathy. One must be careful not to get carried away in it or we become another modern concept I call chameleon co-dependency. We feel the other person so much that we lose our own self-identity and become ill in needing to fulfill their needs. So here we talk about common decency empathy. Sympathy is easy, you feel bad for you for someone else’s pain. Empathy is when you feel their actual pain and feel their bad. Or it can just be a normal setting where you feel what they feel. So the good sermon is about first feeling what the audience is feeling and then steering them to a better place and space for the moment and then leaving some “think abouts” for later.
Much to be learned here
We need a shepherd
Your preacher must reach for excellence
We could do that here with quotations from the Bible a plenty. And we would not be all things to all. We could completely leave out reference to the Bible but we would not be all things to all. But that is not good enough. Somehow we must challenge all people to write their own sermon to compliment this one. Each person must be their own preacher. I would say the trite thing here “most people do not want to work that hard”. But that would be a lie and would take the burden off of the preacher’s shoulders. And it belongs there. The preacher must arouse. The preacher must incite. The preacher must lift you up to do better than you thought you could before the sermon. The preacher must set you up for victory in finding your own thoughts.
Alas we fall far short here. And we know it. But it is important for all of us to have this critical view of those that would preach with us, at us and for us. Please read these sermons critically. Sharpen you minds on dissecting what is good and meditating on that: Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (see I can sneak in a few verses when it suits me and I think it works, but note we will get back to this when we talk about you)
Take stock of yourself
And finally my friends we have set the table and prepared for today’s meal of thought.
Just assume for a moment that I am a preacher. And you are the congregation. Who is the most important part of this equation? If you hesitate for a second you need some work. The listener is always the most important part of a sermon. One time I was preparing to give a sermon for Thanksgiving. It would be a full house and what we were going to be talking about was the gift of giving thanks. Kind of important for believers in God. For some reason my wife had taken a keen interest in how I would do in front of “her” friends and fellow gossips (just kidding sort of,, we know it happens, admit it). So I went in early and practiced the sermon. Dumbest thing I ever did. Without my friends the sermon did not mean a thing and practice was just plain silly. The listener is so important that you cannot practice because it means nothing how you say it, it only matters how it is received.
Now to you. Love and compassion and a willingness to listen. You have those attributes. Yes you do. This sermon does not mean anything without your patience and guidance through reaction. An empty gong as it were. So all of this was a great big set up. A set up so that you can see just how important you are. We are all humans living this life the best we can. A sermon does not mean squat if not for the people willing to let it make a difference. And those people are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, praiseworthy so meditate on yourself.
I mean this wholeheartedly. Paul tells us what is good. And you are good. So as I related in the beginning about meditating on the word. You do likewise and meditate on you for you are the living word by your kindness, love, compassion and goodness. Please just take the time to sit still, breathe deeply and repeat: I am me and I am good. Take my word for it – you are.