The state of Christian sermons (be they Evangelical sermons or Progressive Christian sermons) has remained pretty constant for centuries now. What state is this? Well, in the words of singer and songwriter Joe Jones (circa 1960):
You talk too much, you worry me to death,
You talk too much, you even worry my pet,
You just talk, talk too much.
You talk about people that you don’t know,
You talk about people wherever you go,
You just talk, talk too much.
It is not so much that long-winded sermons cause us to worry (or nod off in the pews). Or that Christianity’s preachers talk too much about people they don’t know, even though they often do, even progressive clergy (who can forget Rev. Michael Pfleger’s comments about Hillary Clinton).
The problem is that excess sermonizing steals the revelation from us. Revelations born from the lips of preachers are will-o’-the-wisps that flicker in our minds briefly but rarely are internalized. For revelations to be transformative we must come to them on our own. That is why Socrates taught with questions, and Jesus taught with parables.
Questions and parables do not steal the “aha” experience from us. They encourage it. Now is the time for Progressive Christian ministers to begin rethinking their approaches to the Sunday sermon–those wordy monologues which all too often are but platforms to show off our erudition. The progressive pulpit should not be confused with the university lectern. Parishioners are not college students.
Let us dial back on the scholarship, the analysis, and the scripture, and increase the storytelling, the laughter, and the wonder. Let us be the river guide who lets the fishers make their own catch.
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When will the Second Coming occur? This seems to be a question of utmost importance to many Christians today, as we struggle through seemingly endless economic and environmental crises. The question of the Second Coming though has been front and center in the minds of Christians ever since Jesus shuffled off his mortal coil. John didn’t help matters much in penning Revelations, the New Testament book that causes the literal Bible reader to suddenly have a change of heart and see hidden metaphors and signs in every turn of phrase.
What exactly is a sign of Christ’s Second Coming? For the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats it was when “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” Even though Jesus warned us against looking for signs, Yeats seems to be on the right track. What better way to describe our politics, media, and the overall coarsening of American life than by saying the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. The Second Coming must surely be at hand.
And in fact it is. The Second Coming is now. It has always been now. From Jesus’s day through Yeats’s time to today, the best (more often than not) have always lacked conviction, while the worst have continued to behave like the Pharisees and Sadducees: full of passionate intensity. The real question for Christians is whether or not we are ready to answer the call of the Holy Spirit, accept our divinity in Christ, and begin that journey down the road less traveled, yet which makes all the difference.
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