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
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.