When I was 12, I thought I wanted to be a minister. By the time I was 14, I was carrying my Bible to school. By the time I was 17…I wasn’t.
But I’ve heard a lot of sermons. If I were giving a sermon last week, or maybe the week before, it would be directed to ministers and congregants and would contain these elements:
Don’t say during your Easter sermon, as you gaze over your unusually large congregation, “I expect to see you all of here NEXT week.” Most of them won’t be, and that joke won’t help. Besides you used it last year and the year before that…
Do not use the term C&Es. Ever. (C&E means Christmas and Easter.) Or any variant – I just heard Poinsettias and Lilies.
Make every attempt to make the service accessible, not just during the holidays but every week. Using responses that aren’t in the bulletin, and not even cited by the page number is a great way to make sure that the folks don’t come back. I once read Peter Gomes’ “The Good Book”, where he writes: “A regular churchgoer…said listening to the lessons in church was like eavesdropping on a conversation where the parties on whom you are listening are speaking fluent French, and you are trying to make sense of what they are saying with your badly remember French 101. You catch a few words and are intrigued, trying to follow, but after a while you lose interest, for the effort is too great and the reward too small.”
Welcome them for being there NOW. I get the impression from some church people that they believe they are BETTER than the other people. The scripture disagrees: “For ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” I suspect, at some level, the regulars are a tad jealous of their more infrequent congregants.
Gomes goes into great detail about the sin of “proof-texting” the Bible to justify the sublimation of blacks, Jews, women and gays. Read the book, because my analysis will not do it justice. I will note, however, in the chapter “The Bible and Homosexuality”, his citation of Daniel Jonah Goldberg’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. “Goldberg argues that it was the cultural permission of Germany’s Christian anti-Semitism, based of course upon a reading of the Bible, that allowed the nasty work of the Holocaust to be done…by people whose attitudes were based upon centuries of Christian teaching.”
Distorting God’s word to dismiss some of God’s people is a sin, in my Book.
The Gospel of Judas is on Sunday 8-10 pm (then again 10 pm-12m and 12m-2 am) on the National Geographic Channel.