Sunday, September 23, 2018

Could you write a sermon?

Another dreary, uninspiring day. I felt sleepy and chilly most of the day but did try to go to church on the computer. Frustrating. Partway into the service, the computer tells you the video has timed out. It has something to do with broadband width, which I don’t understand at all. Last week, it was in the middle of the pastoral prayer. This week the minister was in his sermon and had just made a profound point unknown to me. Did you realize that the “Close Doors” button in elevators Is a placebo? Most of us push it not once but seven or eight times, and then the doors magically close. Not because of all that button-pushing but because it was time for them to close. But since we’re always in a rush, pushing the button makes us feel like we’re doing something.

I didn’t get to hear the rest of the sermon, but it got me to thinking how difficult it would be to write a sermon every week. Like being in graduate school, where I had a professor who loved to command, “Discuss Shakespeare.” Where in the world to begin? With the sermon, clergy, as I understand it, are pretty much given the Scripture for the day. The challenge is to find their own profound interpretation and then write 20 minutes or so worth of copy that is instructive, interesting, even humorous. Go!

There’s a bit of moral instruction I’d like to put into words but am not sure I can articulate. It’s a mix of two of my mom’s favorite aphorisms: “You catch more flies with a teaspoon of sugar than a cup of vinegar” and “Never judge until you have walked a mile in another man’s moccasins.” I like to think of myself as Pollyanna, all sweetness and light, but the truth is I’m hard-headed, and the older I get the more determined I seem to be that my way is the right way. (I’m excluding politics here.) I need to do that mile walk. Each of us has a story that we don’t share with the world, but that story so often shapes our actions and reactions. If we knew more about an individual we’re talking to, we might tailor our response differently.

Now I’ve tangled via email with someone I have to work with if not weekly at least monthly. I made suggestions that he took as me telling him what to do, and he’s probably right because I’m convinced he makes an unnecessary muddle of things. But I was preaching from my high horse, and I know better. I don’t know his story, and I guess neither of us appreciate the other aspects of life pulling at us I thought, by suggesting, I was using sugar. Apparently it came across as vinegar.

There’s a fine line when you try to “make nice” after a misunderstanding like that. I will not fall all over myself with apologies because I do think he should have listened to me and others. Too much sugar. But I don’t want to be the squeaky wheel or cup of vinegar, always causing trouble and turning people away. Where is my mom when I need her? She’d help me write that sermon.

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