Sunday, May 08, 2005

Why a sermon?

What is the purpose of a Sunday morning sermon?

I have observed a few reasons. And if my observations be true, then my observations of the expressions of these reasons is . . . ugly.

Reason #1: to teach people how to live. Holiness, righteousness, lights in a dark world, pure and blameless. Words found in the Words of God (a.k.a. "the Bible") that describe how He desires His children to live. FURTHER, sin kills. Living God's way leads to life while living outside God's way(s) leads to death (cf. Gal. 5). So the sermon is about living correctly ("righteousness").

Reason #2: so people can have "spiritual food" and can "grow." I am dismissing #2 due to the following. The words of God ARE referred to as milk. Jesus said to Satan, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from God." Problem: both of these passages are not speaking of the words of God but rather the LIVING of the words of God. Jesus goes on to say, later, "I have other food . . . to do the will of my father." To separate the words from the request from the expression is illegitimate Biblically. Further, look at the word "grow" and how it is used even in the contemporary, U.S. Church. It implies someone is getting "better" - more or better expression. So Food and Growth are actually up to the "hearer" not the sermon.

Reason #3: so people can know God better - "more fully." I like this one, actually. The Bible contains the story of the greatest Main Character ever. So expanding, reading, explaining, reporting on Him is always a good thing. The idea of "know" in this sense being more than fact: fact plus story plus relationship plus experience plus . . . But do we ever do this?

Here's the illegitimate child that comes from the current expression of the union of #1 and #3. We (sermon givers) speak of how people are to live correctly. We seldom speak of God Himself (e.g. when was the last time there was a sermon about God Himself that did not include some kind of application for me to live out, something I could do the next week). What I fear has happened:
#1 = How plus to live correctly
#3 = Know plus God
Reality = Know plus living correctly

Sick. Proposal for change. #1 - stop teaching and start doing. For example, if a local church is excited about loving its volunteers, then exit the "worship center"(??!?) and circle the children's wing and PRAY (thanks, protection, etc.). #3 - stop giving sermons that even COULD have direct application (i.e. doable by every listener w/in the next 7 days) and simply teach on God. I dare say that telling a sermon giver that he/she will have to give sermons on God for 50 weeks will scare the pants off them. FIFTY WEEKS?!?! What will I say? A sad state when the professional God- person cannot speak on God for 50 weeks.

Another way to say the same thing: sermon-givers have replaced the Holy Spirit. People know the sermon-giver better than their God (#3). Sermon-givers tell people (a.k.a. "convict," "lead," and other words that the Spirit is stated to do) what to do (#1).

I have mastered the illegitimate sermon. This is my own self-discipline. I see this in others because "it takes one to know one" and "he who smelt it dealt it." "Child-like" faith has some interesting ramifications, yes?

1 comment:

Ty said...

Reason #4 for sermon: WADITW (we have always done it that way) - sorry, slightly jaded/sarcastic comment. As a sermon giver I know that much of the time people have known me better than God (and I am kind of hard to get to know) I really do want to disappear behind God during a sermon but it is so hard, especially in a society that worships the 'larger than life leader'. I tend to find myself wanting to be more rather than less. Even in our emerging church/postmodern timeframe somehow the 'famous people' still set the tone and we tend to know them better than God. But as light beer lovers cry out 'less is more!' Lets all disappear behind God!