Saturday, August 02, 2008

Hearing a word from God

I’m still on “vacation” which means I don’t have to preach tomorrow. I get to listen to someone else preach tomorrow morning.

When I was a musician I had trouble listening to other trombone players. I couldn’t hear the music. I could only compare my playing to the guy (usually a guy) on stage.

When I became a conductor things became worse. I couldn’t listen to a concert without a critical ear. Musical interpretation, phrasing, dynamics, balance were slices that didn’t make a whole piece when added up. At least to my hearing. I often felt the urge to take over because I preferred what I heard in my head to what was being presented in front of me.

Pretty arrogant, eh?

The same thing happens when I hear other preachers. I have pretty high standards and I want other preachers to meet them. I don’t always know what that sounds like. But when I hear a bad sermon, a lazy preacher, poor interpretation, cheesy stories, or whatever, I get angry.

I get angry because I genuinely come to church looking for a word from God. I come hungry for a transforming message.

And when some preacher makes a mockery of the pulpit, God’s voice is silenced. When God’s mouthpiece uses tacky illustrations or resorts to clichés, I feel cheated. When preachers offer a “chat” rather than feeding me the bread of life, I feel like I need a shower.

The gospel means “good news.” And that’s what I come looking for. Because my week is often jammed with bad news. I need to know that Jesus is alive and God is doing something. I need to know how and where I can find God, even if God is right in front of my nose.

I need to know how my life impacts the world. I need to know there is forgiveness when I fail and encouragement when I despair. I need to know that I am loved.

I imagine that’s why most people come to church. It’s not as if there aren’t other options. God draws them in because that’s where they need to be.

But it’s not as if folks who stay home don’t need what people in church need. That’s why it’s our job as church folks to bring people in to God’s house of resurrection. That’s why the Christian life is one big sermon illustration.

Or better, the Christian life is about living in a different reality – God’s reality – than where others live. This doesn’t mean that we’re superior to anyone else. But it does place a heavy obligation on us. Bearing witness to God’s love and mercy is harder than it looks. It takes strong hands and a thick skin.

I hope my preaching does all that. My congregation deserves it.

So, tomorrow, I hope I hear a word from God. A word that’ll help me live the resurrection life.

I’ll keep you posted.

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