Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Death of All We Know and Love

From my younger days, I remember two approaches to preaching -- the guys that planned out every word that they would say before Sunday, starting on Monday. In between visiting widows and orphans and such, they'd research and work, translate from original languages, bring in elements of popular culture (I appreciated one attempt that succeeded in bringing in St. Janis Joplin to the sermon). Then there was the other kind, the I try and feel where the spirit leads me ones, the guys with a vague plan and a dog-eared Bible. While not always a sure bet, when the spirit-filled ones worked, they worked with an unplanned brilliance, like a chance meeting at an airport with the person put on earth to tell you what to do next. When they bombed, we were stuck in the book of Job for what seemed like hours, optimistically putting our shoes back on, hoping for the glorious words, In conclusion . . .

My family was friendly with one of the last of the sane preachers the nondemoninational church we went to when I was a teenager. Butch seemed like a real ordinary guy -- he'd sit and eat Dominos pizza with his parishoners and watch movies like Nightmare on Elm Street. He wasn't big on the whole hellfire and brimstone stuff and never spoke in tongues. But his sermons, boy, they were not flashes of unplanned brilliance nor were they well-crafted works of art. One of the more inspired ones started -- I was speeding the other day. Speeding is a sin since it's against the law. So I stopped. But then a good song played on the radio and I started speeding again. And, umm, that was also a sin. And that shows that sin persists despite our best intentions . . . I wondered how Butch had gotten into preaching, what had given him the idea that it was his calling. I remembered the preacher before who had left the church because the relatively judgmental and conservative people in the congregation hadn't liked the way he looked (his body had a gnarled quality and his clothes had big stains all over them) or talked (in what can only be described as an effeminate growl). The heart, he'd say, is a lonely place. We, not one of us, are at home. There is longing, there is grief, there is the death of all we know and love. We wander in our own personal deserts, and nobody can truly know us. I couldn't see him eating pizza or watching Nightmare on Elm Street. But his sermons were so good and real that you felt as if you fell asleep, a fate worse than Freddy's long knives might await you, not the usual bullshit about a punishing God, but your own heart, that desert, full of empty spaces and beautiful dangerous creatures that come out when the sun goes down.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"It is not enough to leave Egypt. You must enter the promised land." Thomas Merton

Cocktail Hour

Drinking music suggestion: Under the Covers Dwight Yoakum

Benedictions and Maledictions

Happy Saturday! I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend and finding lots of what they want.


Incubus said...

"Beautiful dangerous creatures"--What an awakening! Bravo to you and yours, Michelle. Cheers for the Holidays!

The Word said...

Give thanks. Not for what you have, but for who gave it.

Freaky facts said...

Thomas Merton was electrocuted by an electric fan while showering.

Laura said...

Hail to the preachers of the world. Have a great weekend Michelle.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Most sermons put me to sleep. I suspect it has more to do with being in a church than anything else. I also fall asleep in front of the television quite frequently. Hey, I posted from a motel bed too.

Anonymous said...

An acquaintance of mine, the Rev. James Maloney, of the the Church of the All Forgiving, has always been considered an eloquent orator. He understands that it isn't god people want to hear coming at them in the sermon, but rather their own voice, filtered through divine intervention. Hell, it's the only way they really listen.

A case in point: when Maloney published his first bible, it was seven thousand pages of virgin creme vellum. Divine inspiration divinely revealed. I understand it's in its seventh printing.

As Rev. Maloney would say: "IS"

The Walking Man said...

First...when in the hell were you a teen-ager? Never happened, you were born a millenium old and that was your first trip through the wheel of life.

Preachers, I used to do that but found out that in order to preach you have to have a degree from some damned divinity school and an audience so I shunned the school and changed the audience and went to writing books and poetry. where I just get to tell honesty.

The difference being is preachers have to tell truth not their idea of it, but what it is and how can one learn that in school? Besides in TWO places in the Christian text it says God himself shall teach you, so I have to agree with jr's a good place to sleep not a good place to listen; unless it was to your mother telling you to "shut up and quit fucking with your brothers tie or your gonna get the shit beat out of you when this is over" then wait for ten minutes and start fucking with his tie again.

I never heard a preacher of any religion that had it all right or a religious system either, never met a priest that wasn't a nice enough guy (except for the one that excommunicated me, he was an ass)or wanted to bung and alter boy (at least not a fat one) just never met one who stepped out on their beliefs, except for one who spent his life in South Africa being tortured by the police during aparthied, which had more to do with his politic than his religion but as James suppsedly wrote...tell me all you want of your faith without action and I will show you my faith by my actions.

Anonymous said...

Have a great weekend, love the picture!