The first thing I would like to do is completely undermine any shred of credibility I have ever had and say that I just purchased "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga on iTunes. Yes, you read that right. It is so freakin' catchy!
Now that I have all my unconfessed sin out in the open, I would like to share a thought I had today in church. It had nothing to do with the sermon. So to the guy who preached today, this is not about you buddy or anything you had to say. However, I totally tuned you out when I was writing all this stuff down. Sorry.
We like to say that following Jesus is first and foremost a relationship. On the whole, I like that description. I don't actually think we take it far enough most of the time but that is not the point.
My point is that through all our teaching on this "relationship," are we unintentionally totally undermining the entire thing with the way we do Sunday morning? Relationships are about interaction. They are about communication, spending time together, doing things together, living life together, figuring out and working through conflicts, celebrating. You know, the things you do with people you care about.
I am trying to think of any relationships I have that resemble a pastor giving a sermon.
Connection? If week after week after week the primary way we learn about God is through a monologue speech, doesn't that affect our perception of the subject of that monologue?
It is possible that I am making too big a leap in my logic but I think there might be something to it.
Many of us think God doesn't speak to us. We want someone to speak like a pastor does. We want him to lay out 3 key steps to improving our lives (preferably they all start with the same letter and end in "-tion"). But I think most people who "hear" from God experience something much more subtle and cryptic. Something more mysterious. Sometimes it is a picture or a word. Sometimes a passage of scripture just punched you in the face like it never did before. Sometimes a friend calls you out on something and you are able to see the world through new eyes.
Nor do my relationships resemble this. When was the last time you sat down with a friend and then launched into a sermon?
Which brings me to my next point. Sermons are not conversational. I don't know about your church, but at mine and MANY others I have been to, the whole set up on Sunday morning is about listening to one person. I do not interact with this person. I am not allowed to ask questions during the sermon.
Though maybe I should try sometime. Boy that would throw everyone off wouldn't it?
Do some of us struggle with seeing God as someone we can interact with? As someone we can't question or argue with? I believe we can, though we need to be prepared to get Job-like answers.
And in my relationships, I interact. I ask questions. I get asked questions. We deepen our relationship with each other. We get to know each other more. I don't know that I have ever felt like I knew my pastor better and had a deeper relationship with him after a sermon. He certainly doesn't know me any better. I probably know a little more ABOUT him and have heard some funny story about his kids or his family's frequent stops at In-n-Out burger on their vacations. But there is no deepening of relationship.
And because of that, neither of us are transformed.
When I get to interact with someone, the chances of me having a life-changing experience go up dramatically.
Now don't get me wrong. I love a good sermon. I love giving good ones. I want to be a better preacher. But I can't rely on that. I have to realize the limits of what it can do. I have to understand what I communicate that has nothing to do with the words I say.
The sermon must be accompanied by relationship. The sermon must be able to be challenged and questioned and wrestled with in the context of community and friendship.
So thanks pastor man this morning for giving me some space to think about this.