Fed up with sermons

shocked

Photo by permission from http://www.sxc.hu/profile/bigevil600

Yes, really.

I am fed up with sermons.

That’s probably not what a Regional Minister ought to have as the title for one of his bloggages. But I am honestly fed up with sermons.

Not, I hasten to add, in the usual sense of that phrase! (Put the stones down…)

I am fed up with sermons because when I sit and listen to a sermon I get fed. Unbelievably that even happens when I am preaching a sermon myself. God’s Spirit takes the human being who is stood at the front and uses them to nourish those who are listening. (I recognise that not everybody who is sat in the congregation is actually paying attention – and nowadays you don’t even have to be present as lots of sermons are recorded and put on church websites). Somehow a miracle happens when God’s Spirit takes words that are spoken by one person and applies and interprets them into the lives of those who are listening in different ways. The same words can have a different impact. Indeed sometimes when I have been preaching he has somehow fed someone with words and meaning that I didn’t use! I believe that’s a miracle.

But I am not just fed by sermons, I am fed up. Any sermon in church that points me towards God has, in my view, achieved its purpose. It should make us look upwards. I was reminded of that on Sunday when I was speaking from John 21 and pointed out that while the message I was giving was about fresh starts, the subject of the passage is Jesus Christ – risen, meeting with his friends, renovating Peter and offering the same fresh beginnings to all who seek them. If when I preach one of my sermons it fails to make people look up (metaphorically and spiritually) then I have failed the main objective.

A long time ago there was some correspondence in The Times about the value of sermons. Someone had written a letter to ask about the point of sermons as he had been going to church for over 30 years and could not remember one of them. The correspondence went back and forth on this subject for a while with people defending or attacking sermons. The correspondence was ended when someone wrote that they had been eating Sunday lunches for the past 30 years and while they couldn’t remember any of them they were pretty sure that they had done them some good.

I like that.

It makes me smile.

It’s a gentle but wise answer, seasoned with a touch of levity.

But…

(didn’t you know there would be a ‘but’?)

How many of you eat Sunday lunch and then don’t eat anything for the rest of the week? Could you survive like that?

So why do so many Christians think they can do that spiritually?

How are you nourished daily?

There are many online resources nowadays: you can get emails daily to your email inbox from organisations like Scripture Union’s WordLive, Bible apps on your phone  or tablet like YouVersion and there are Bible websites like Bible Gateway. There’s no reason why we can’t be fed daily. Is there?

Be blessed, be a blessing

wise words?

“Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get.” (Forrest Gump*).

Except that if you have the leaflet that comes with the box of chocolates you have a good idea about what you are gonna get. Perhaps this is more accurate:

“Life is like a box of chocolates: we all come to a sticky end.” (Nick Lear)

The internet seems full of pithy sayings and clever pieces of advice. This morning I have received this African proverb from two different sources:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

bible genesis

I also came across some words from J John about reading the Bible, which seemed quite appropriate to what I am saying tomorrow night at the Expedition Through the Bible. He suggests that reading the Bible without God’s Spirit is like eating a dry biscuit while walking in the desert (or something like that, I can’t find it again now).

That’s clever and amusing but I wonder if it’s not more like driving a car with an empty fuel tank: you’re not going to get very far. God’s Spirit is the one who inspired people to write down the words we have in the Bible, so he’s the best one to be able to inspire us as we read them. Without him the words, as brilliant and amazing as they are, will not take us anywhere. Without him the Bible is simply (!) an astonishing collection of ancient literature that gives good advice for life along the lines of Forrest Gump.

With him, God speaks through the words, and applies them to us, so that he inspires, encourages, comforts, challenges, teaches, blesses, corrects, guides, nurtures…

Don’t stop reading the Bible, but make sure you put some fuel in the tank before you do!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*Yes, I know he is quoting his ‘Mumma’ but he is the one who articulates it in the film