The most common criticism I hear about preaching is this: it is offered as though nothing is at stake. Sermons are delivered as though nothing
I asked folks a few years ago to explain why they were not church goers. One said, “Church is nice but it is not for me.” A girl I had a crush on in the tenth grade told me, “You are nice but…” She smiled as her words trailed off. I was nice but boring.
Another person complained saying, “I attended a church for a while but all they did was criticize other denominations. It was a complete waste of time. I would have liked it better if the preacher had criticized me and some of my weaknesses. I might have been uncomfortable but at least it would have mattered!”
Sue Armentrout is an Episcopalian priest. She found a website where people shared their thoughts about the season of Lent. She was amazed at the quality of their musings.
One person, commenting on the church’s mission to call us toward something holier than ourselves, wrote: “The more that is demanded of people, the more they want to give. The church’s tough rules on (confession and repentance of sin) made one even tougher on one self (and) more generous to sacrifice. Lent has been trickling away. The less the church asks of us, the less we give.”
We may want to quibble with some of that anonymous poster’s commentary but the final comment bears repeating: “The less the church asks of us, the less we give.” Apply that comment to any aspect of our lives – spiritual, social, financial, emotional – and we will have to admit that it is true: the less we are asked, the less we give.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he asks us to do something that I tend to shy away from. He says it loud and clear: “Be reconciled to God.” In other words, admit that you need God. In return, God will call on us to practice honesty and openness, love and forgiveness, justice and welcome to all. Those are high aspirations but in a world full of low level demands and simplistic solutions, it is time for the church to realize what we do matters.
Grace and peace to you,