Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Powerful and Meaningful Sermon

I just finished reading a sermon that, for some, it was powerful and meaningful.

General Conference is happening right now. Every 4 years United Methodists and affiliates gather from around the world to discuss, debate, and elect the path of the UMC for the coming 4 years. Interspersed among the issues of "how then shall we live" are sermons. Bishops, clergy, and laity provide the message of the Gospel to those in attendance. But the sermon I read was not from General Conference.

No, it was a Sunday morning sermon. In fact, it was a sermon preached on the Third Sunday of Lent. And the congregation hearing the sermon had to have been engrossed in the words of the minister. Because I was hanging on every word, waiting to hear the Gospel.

The sermon was entitled, "A Sermon on Werewolves".

Yep, werewolves. And the sermon was about....werewolves. Granted, the sermon was preached in 1508 in Strasbourg, Germany. The context of the sermon needs to be considered. 16th Century Germans had to deal with werewolves on a regular basis. So don't discount this sermon so easily. The preacher goes on to explain that werewolves are really hyperactive normal wolves with boundary issues. Primarily, they eat people.

But when I finished this sermon, there were two thoughts that I could not escape. The first was the lack of Good News in the sermon. The Gospel (Greek - euangelion) means "good news". Christians in the century after Christ's sacrifice and resurrection were witnesses and proclaimers of Good News. Paul stresses that the Gospel is our life's meaning. And preachers are ordained to proclaim the Good News. But there was none of that in this sermon. In fact, outside of mentioning the God (yes, our God) and God's providence was behind some wolf attacks, there is no mention of any Christian theology. But the people were better equipped to explain reports of werewolves to their friends, neighbors, and family.

The second thing that gripped me was the absurdity of the message. And it got me thinking: in 500 years how many of my sermons will be as absurd sounding as this one. The Gospel is timeless. In approximately 2,000 years the Gospel message has not lost its impact or power. But we pastors sometimes shroud the Gospel in remarks that dull the power. Sometimes we pick issues that are secondary, or even tertiary, as our preaching material . And we never get around to connecting the issue to the Gospel. We call it prophetic or social witness. We may justify it by calling it teaching or social context. But in 500 years, how important will these sub-ultimate messages be.

We only have a short time to proclaim the Gospel. And every chance we have should be taken for the sake of Christ and the sake of others.