Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Looking for Moments

I'm giving a homily (mini-sermon) tonight for Advent. For the 3rd week of Advent, my homily revolves around Moses' fear, and remembering the freedom from bondage offered by Christ, which is what Christmas is all about. Christ the Deliverer, coming to redeem the world in the most peculiar way.

SO, keep it short and sweet; that's what I've been told about homilies. The question for me is, how do I get the message to connect?

Whenever I preach or am asked to speak before a crowd, I'm reminded of how difficult it must be for pastors who stand at the pulpit every Sunday. You're trying to connect with the congregation. Hopefully, you're not trying to manipulate the congregation emotionally; you simply want to communicate truth and pray that God will use your words to impact the listener, or at least prompt the listener to think about the truth you just shared.

So tonight, my intent is to prompt the listener to drop the "Praise the Lord!" mask (most of the attendees are people who confess Christ as their Savior; they are decent people, but we, myself included, need to be reminded daily that we are not all that) and stand naked before The Deliverer. My prayer is that God would pierce the heart of at least 1 person within the sound of my voice, to make that person question where they are in their spiritual ghetto (a ghetto of misguided self-righteousness and flippant treatment of our faith), and start getting honest about who they are in relation to God.

We are a people looking for moments. By moments, I mean we are all looking for those emotional, inspiring moments to confirm whatever one may believe. So this isn't limited to Christians. You can be a Wiccan, and be inspired by the story of a soldier coming home and be brought to tears. You can be an "enlightened one" (my term for someone who is open to everything except Jesus) and be moved by watching a child help an old lady cross the street. When 9/11 happened, the world entire was moved to tears and there was an outpouring of emotion and inspiration that followed; for a time at least.

And that's how it is for Christians. We look for "Hallelujah!" moments to inspire us. I don't reject those moments, I just question their frequency. I meet Christians who are "just so blessed", all the time, that it makes me wonder sometimes how they could handle all that time on the mountaintop and not have their hair turn white, like Moses. Then I wonder if maybe my life is lacking spiritually, because "Man! This guy is at the foot of God's throne 24/7! Does he ever feel defeated? Does he ever struggle?"

All that to say that my homily tonight is directed to my own heart and the listeners. A call to honesty; to stop looking for the "Hallelujah!" moments, and realize that those moments come when we acknowledge how screwed up we really are. If my goal is to be a Super-Christian, trying to convince the world how special I am and that they can be special too if they will just walk down that aisle, then I miss out on the beauty of the comfort of my Father's embrace when I acknowledge that I am broken. If my goal is to try to do "good deeds" and hope that karma will return the favor by making my life better... well we all know that doesn't really work; that is, if we're honest.

I thank God for being real enough to come to me in real-time, and in real life.