Sunday, February 06, 2005

I can't define "pornography," but I've never watched Ghandi at 2 a.m. on a lonely Saturday night

Crossposted at Coffe Hour

This is a shout out, especially to ministers, but I'm happy for anyone to respond.

A close friend of CC's is giving a lay sermon in his UU church next Sunday and has sent CC what he plans to say.

It's a very fine speech for the rotary club, but it's not a sermon. It doesn't really connect personally with the reader/listener it doens't really even mention spirituality.

This person has had his lay-lead sermons criticized by CC before for not being sermons, and what he has written this time does represent improvement. But it's still not there.

It might help if I explained better what differentiates a sermon from a rotary club speech, but I'm having troujble articulating it.





PeaceBang said...

Sermons are a strange little art form. Writing one every week is not my idea of bliss, but pretty close to it, even when I come sliding into Sunday morning's home plate fried with exhaustion from trying to weave together something beautiful, meaningful and coherent. My overall commitment and question when writing a sermon is this: *does it minister to anyone?*
Providing information is not enough. Providing information with your blood, sweat and tears splattered on it in a linguistically evocative and resonant way is a start. How does this topic speak to the soul, from a place of the soul? Where is the vertical dimension in it?
How does it give our "good news?"
Why does it belong in a house of worship rather than, say, as an editorial in the NY Times?
And finally: Why should the mother whose son has just been killed in a motorcycle accident remain in her pew and give her attention to what I am saying?
How can this minister to her? Even if the topic is very contemporary, does it contain the Eternal and the Essential?

There are few privileges greater than to be given a congregation's attention for 15-20 minutes on a Sunday morning. Ya gotta minister to them.

Anonymous said...

You know, I really have no objections to the odd sermon that sounds like a NYTimes editorial. (I know I am in the minority here on this issue.) I just don't want every week to sound like a NYTimes editorial, which was sort of the case back in the old days.

But, more to the point, what is this freinds audience like? Do they enjoy hearing sermons that sound like Rotary Club sermons. The Rotary can be a powerful force in certain areas of trhe country, sort of like the Republican party in D.C. or the mob in Chicago.

The Anonymous Poster

Chalicechick said...

Amazing answer, Peacebang.

I pretty much rewrote his sermon and sent it back to him.

I quoted you in the email that went with.

It is so bad. I love him, but it is and he doesn't see it. We're talking it's seventeen pages long and goes from homelessness in LA, to talking about this homeless man who was failed by the system and whom my friend wanted to help but never quite did, to the myth of the individual, to the need for churches to work together.

AP, I didn't say an NYT editorial. NYT editorials are concise and make their point, though are devoid of spiritual content. Rotary Club speeches tend to talk down to the listener and go on for way too damn long.

The thing is, he has told me about this homeless guy before, and though he says the stuff about individualism is stuff people "need to hear," and while I believe him because he is a smart, perceptive person, I felt the spiritual good stuff to be had was in the fact that 20 years later, a homeless guy he saw about twice a month is still on his mind.

So I wrote a sermon, using the homeless guy stuff and bearing in mind a Yom Kippur sermon Katy-the-Wise once wrote, I wrote about how my friend feels he failed the homeless guy, but how with no judnemental God to protrate oneself before, UUism doesn't really allow us outlets of feelings of guilt, particularly guilt for someone we can't directly make amends to, and how UUism really needs a forgiveness ritual for all this crusty guilt we carry around.

And he will read it, but he won't use it, because he is very stubborn and he thinks he has something to impart and the congregation wanted him to speak because they wanted to be imparted to.

But I tried.

Steve Caldwell said...

"Spiritual" and "spirituality" are like the southern expression "tacky." Both deciding if something is "spiritual" and deciding if something is "tacky" is all a matter of personal perspective.

A former co-worker of mine from Chicago married a southerner from Charleston, South Carolina. When hearing his southern spouse call something "tacky," she wouldn't (couldn't?) explain why ... she just sensed that it was somehow in violation of southern cultural norms.

He decided that there was no such thing as "tacky" ... it was just another way of saying that you disapproved of something (without saying your disapproval as an "I" statement as far as I can tell).

Maybe "spiritual" is the same sort of word ... it another way of saying "I feel what you said in the worship didn't move me in any significant way" without making it an "I" statement.

Chalicechick said...

Sean Parker Dennison posted this to coffee hour, I thought it was really good:

IP Address:
Name: Sean Dennison
Email Address:


I think a better word than "spiritual" is "meaningful." Did the sermon/talk touch on things that help a person live a more meaningful life? A sermon can be quiet intellectual and still do so. It can be full of emotion and stories and NOT do so. What would make your friend's sermon more meaningful?

We often allude to needing "more of you (the preacher)" in the sermon. Usually, we're asking, "Why is this important? How did this touch you enough to want to write a sermon? Why should I care?" So, if your friend's sermon just seems like a fine intellectual argument or analysis, but doesn't tell us why that matters, you're probably left wanting more--and looking for something "spiritual" or "meaningful" within it.

So, does your friend's topic matter? Why does it matter? Why does it matter to the preacher? Why should it matter to the listener?


fausto said...

CC wrote: I wrote about how my friend feels he failed the homeless guy, but how with no judnemental God to protrate oneself before, UUism doesn't really allow us outlets of feelings of guilt, particularly guilt for someone we can't directly make amends to, and how UUism really needs a forgiveness ritual for all this crusty guilt we carry around.

If you think UUism doesn't provide such outlets, that's only a recent failing. For example, there are several very moving general confessions in the old Red Hymnal, of various theist, humanist, and ambiguous orientations, including these:

In the holy quiet of this hour, let us draw nigh to him who heareth prayer, and let us remember that he listeneth more to our hearts than to our words. Let each of us bring an offering of penitence, if not of purity; of love, if not of holiness; of teachableness, if not of wisdom; of devout obedience for the time to come, if not the fruits of well-doing in the time that is past. And may we obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

O Thou Spirit of holiness and truth, who dost ever move to fashion all things complete and whole, in thy presence we see the imperfections around us; by thy light we are ashamed of the darkness in our own hearts. We have fallen short of the fullness of life that might be in us. We have not enough served the unfinished works of light in the world of men and nations. Help us here to see the brightness of thy glory, that all our days we may steadfastly seek the health and wholeness of our fellow men.

O Thou unseen source of peace and holiness, we come into thy secret place to be filled with thy pure and solemn light. As we come to thee, we remember that we have been drawn aside from the straight and narrow way; that we have not walked lovingly with each other and humbly with thee; that we have feared what is not terrible and wished for what is not holy. In our weakness be thou the quickening power of life. Arise within our hearts as healing, strength and joy. Day by day may we grow in faith, in charity, in the purity by which we may see thee, and in the larger life of love to which thou callest us.

Before the wonders of life we acknowledge our failures to see and to revere; before the sanctities of life we are ashamed of our disrespects and indignities; before the gifts of life we own that we have made choice of lesser goods, and here today seek the gifts of the spirit; before the heroisms of life we would be enlarged to new devotion.