I spent much of yesterday refining the sermon. Though in the morning I had some errands to run, and I had a few e-mails that I needed to respond to for church. I spent the rest of the day reflecting on the Crucifixion of Christ and our Good Friday Service. I think as I did I was struck by how odd it is to sit and reflect, sing, listen to things read, about a mans crucifixion and then adore a replica of that means of execution and torture. We then call it the "life giving cross." as I prepared my sermon I was struck to what degree I simply take this for granted even to some extent in my mind rush on to the Resurection. Yet, I also believe that the crucifixion of Christ is central and essential to the Christian faith.
In my sermon I attempted to address why we are doing this, and why we do this year after year. The why of the what we do in worship and the why of elements of Christian faith have been at the forefront of my mind lately and I think of much of my preaching. In part the make up of Reconciler brings this up because most of the congregation comes from traditions that put more emphasis on spontaneous, music and word based forms of liturgy as opposed to the more structured less spontaneous and explicitly theological liturgy. So, helping them understand the why of the form of liturgy that is completely foreign to them is key. But also, I think looking into the Goth Eucharist and its different iterations has got me thinking along these lines as well. So, my sermon sought to address the question of why do what we were doing in this worship service and why the crucifixion is central to our faith. You can let me know if you think I was successful, in offering a why.
I was a little afraid being so insistent that Jesus' crucifixion gave the context for all his teaching and as the key to the incarnation and the revelation of God's love, would not necessarily be well received. In the least it did strike a chord for many there several who sought me out after the service to thank me for the sermon, saying that they needed to hear what I had said. No one came up and said they objected to my sermon but that rarely happens anyway, so someone may have objected to my emphasis but many found it helpful and made a point to let me know.
The sermon affected me deeply. I found myself questioning a little if I even believed what I was saying. I needed to go pick up some groceries and on the way to the store, everything seemed very distinct and sharp, in a kind of icy static way. I could feel the confusion of Jesus in the tomb, and questions and doubts swarmed in my mind. Even a temptation to feel a bit hypocritical about such a sermon if I could within an hour of preaching entertain doubts about the veracity of it all. The life given cross, really?!! It is hard to see when you face it squarely, and yet in facing it squarely one also finds hope, one encounters Christ in way that really doesn't allow for "Buddy Jesus", really Jesus who died on the cross is your buddy, he died so you could have a supernatural buddy!? No sitting for an hour at the foot of the cross contemplating the crucifixion kind of makes abundantly clear the caricature of faith that conception of Christian faith really is. so much else evaporates or crumbles as well, Jesus as a good teacher, or revolutionary leader of non-violence resistance. It is also hard or at least I found it hard last night to be terribly confident about any singular intperpretation of Jesus' death on the cross. The possible meanings all of which all seem insuficient swarm in my head and I found myself loosing all sense of time, what should have been 15 minutes in the grocery store turned into close to 40 minutes. I have no idea why, i must have just sort of wandered slowly about the store. It was odd, when I realized how long I had spent in the store.
My sermon challenged me, and began to give me some theological language for all this. Which has been my sermons in the last month or so. I am finding that for the first time in the preaching I am actually preaching to myself as much as to the congregation. I am learning about the faith in the preaching and not just the preparation. This feels a little odd because it almost feels like I am not the one preaching. Perhaps this is what inspiration feels like, I don't know. I know it is me preaching, It is my voice my thoughts, and yet somehow there is more than what I thought was there, and I find that what I say almost comes as a surprise to me, and shakes me up a little after having said it. I feel quite uneasy about the sermon both the text posted on this blog and what I spoke last night. I am not comfortable with this. I feel slightly condemned and definitely challenged by my own words. Fear and trembling indeed. If yo see me you may not know it but I am deeply shaken by what I preached last night, and don't know I am up to my own words. Lord have mercy.