I had someone suggest to me this morning that I ought to consider recording my sermons. I’ve done this before, and I suppose some people who could not be present found it comforting to listen. I hope those recordings helped them feel included in the community of those who gathered for worship.
Still. My sense is that sermons are suppose to be live and that when we record them or distribute them in manuscript form we lose a primary component that makes a sermon different than a public address or lecture. That component is the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is in the way a child nestles against his mother’s chest, dozing as I preach.
The Holy Spirit is in the way a man shifts when the Word of God causes him to look at himself through a new lens and plants the first seed of change.
The Holy Spirit is in the way a woman weighed down with lack: of money, of friends, of purpose, of energy, of health — hears something that encourages her heart. Her posture shifts and she feels a little lighter and leaves the sanctuary not quite as bentover.
The Holy Spirit is a force that weaves its way between and under and over all those gathered to worship and it spares no one present, although not every person present welcomes or recognizes her presence.
It is a bold thing to say that the Spirit speaks through me, and yet this is what we believe: this is part of my calling. And when people tell me later, “I remember you once said this in a sermon and it caused me to…” I never remember saying what they’ve just quoted back to me and I am sure I cannot take credit for the change it began in their lives. I am in awe every time.
The Spirit feeds me too, often through the music. When the people rise up after a sermon and sing, that is the Gospel whispered back to me. I feel that music massaging my weary soul and lifting me right off my feet. By the time their song is done, I’ve usually regathered my energy to lead the rest of the service. Like me, when I hear comments later about my sermons, I don’t think the people gathered who sing life into me have any idea what is happening.
I wish that those who rely solely on radio and television to hear a sermon might remember or perhaps discover these things about coming to church. Sunday after Sunday, the weary-distracted-faithful drag themselves into sanctuaries around the world, not always knowing what they seek, but hungering for it just the same. And while they might not palpably experience the presence of God every time, when they do have that encounter: it is more than enough.
Yesterday’s sermon I playfully named: Angels & Anarchy. I talked about the TV show Sons of Anarchy and I talked about angels: in scripture and in the world. It seems to me the thing that Jax and his brothers and sisters of SAMCRO don’t understand is that they need not rely solely on their own muscle and wits to maneuver through this world. They too have access to the spiritual realm and all its power and blessings.
This is at the heart of what the faithful seek to share with those who have not yet heard. We are not in this world alone. When Jesus told his disciples, “And remember…I am with you always,” he meant it. And every single time we gather to worship, we are reminded of this in holy moments that are often so powerful they move us to tears, and we leave ready to take on our lives with renewed commitment.
Every Sunday we discover this in ways we cannot orchestrate and cannot deny.
To God be the glory.
And yet, (for everyone, I would guess,) there are times in our lives when our practice is quiet and more solitary. I hope that you reconsider recording your sermons. I would certainly subscribe to a podcast and can not imagine a more delightful gift than to ride along with you, wherever I am. Consider it an adjunct, not a replacement.
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