Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Brevity: Preaching Like Jesus

This past Sunday was one of those times when I had trouble focusing on worship while attending a worship service. There were several reasons, most all of which were my own fault. I was distracted by the fact that every song we sang was written between 2012 and the present day, and I didn't know know 2 of them. The fact that there was a Veteran's Day celebration in worship (I respect and love those who serve and served, and wish them a Happy Veteran's Day today! But as you may know it makes me crazy to see the flag take center stage in worship instead of the cross) distracted me even more. And finally, not only was the sermon (despite a new title and and slightly new angle) a rerun, it was all about finances and tithing. And as with most tithing sermons, in my opinion there was a whole lotta' proof-texting going on! So my mind began to wander...

What would my sermon topic be if my life were ever find me in the pulpit once again? On this Sunday, with my head in a very snarky place, I was struck by the word Brevity. One of my mentors in ministry once told me that "you can never go wrong by finishing a sermon early, as long as you say all you need to say." And as the thought twisted it's way through my mind, it occurred to me that Jesus was quite often very brief with his teachings. Jesus always fed his audience well, but he seldom gave them the entire buffet all at once. He also often left them with questions and things they needed to figure out on their own. It was quite a revelation, coming as it did in the middle of someone else's sermon, but I realized I was on to something good. There could be a series of very short sermons that would simply quote Jesus each week and then close with another saying from the master teacher- either "Now go thou and do likewise" or "Let those with ears to hear, hear." The rest of sermon would come from the congregation by means of questions or comments. It would be a message series that would truly be all about Jesus!

The sermons would look something like...no, EXACTLY  like...these:

John 14:6-  "I am the way , the truth and life. No one comes to the Father by by me." Let those with ears to hear, hear. You could then ask the basic question the disciples were constantly asking- "But what does it mean?"
Luke 11:9 - "Ask it it shall be given. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door shall be opened." Now go thou and do likewise. Does this mean God is a cosmic genie who will give us everything we ask for if we are faithful? Discuss...
Matthew 5:42-44 - "You have it heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." Now go thou and do likewise. We all want to be loved, but what is Jesus saying about who we need to love? Love our enemies- all of them? Are you kidding me?

It could be done with everything Jesus taught, with every command and every parable. It could be done verse by verse with The Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord's Prayer. We could give the pulpit back to the greatest preacher who ever lived! Preachers (including myself in the days when I filled pulpits) tend to think their explanations of what Jesus said are more important to the congregation's spiritual growth than what he actually said. NO! His words and stories changed the world. His words did not need commentary when he spoke them, and they don't need it today. We need to be like the first followers, soaking in those words, discussing them, being blown away by the power with which he spoke them. There could be periods of quiet meditation to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit or to seek new revelations from these ancient teachings. Worshippers could learn from each other, hearing insights and life experiences that are not usually shared in the modern church.  Just think about it- what would happen if we turned our worship services over to Jesus

Sharing this with you today probably wipes out any small chance I still had of ever being invited to preach again. It's just too radical, too far away from the comfortable patterns of the established church. But you know what? So was Jesus. And that's really the point. The older I get the more I want to see what could happen if we quit giving people church and started giving them Jesus. And that, my friends, will PREACH!!!

Because of Jesus,

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