For part 1 and part 2
I’ve been to a lot of church services in my life. I’ve been inspired by a sermon, I’ve been bored by a sermon, I’ve been excited by a sermon, and I’ve been called by a sermon. I have never been enraged by a sermon before, that is until this past lent season while on my church-hopping adventure.
I went with some of my family members to my aunt’s church. It was the church most of my mom’s family grew up in, and my aunt and grandmother still attend. It is an ELCA Lutheran church. I’ve been to service here a few times, and although it can be a bit dull, and it has the feel of a dying church (very small congregation, no children, you just kind of get the feel that it’s not doing too well), I enjoy worshiping with my family and was looking forward to all of us going together.
It was a pretty typical lent service, a little bit of music here, some prayer there, and then the sermon came. I want to preface this by saying that I hope I somehow misheard the pastor, I pray that he didn’t know what he was saying, or maybe I blacked out from the bread and soup dinner and dreamed this. It probably isn’t as bad as I think, maybe I just take it too hard, anyway, I’ll just tell the story.
The gospel lesson was the story of Jesus’s trial:
Luke 23:20-23 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them gain. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him. But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.
Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Pretty cut and dry stuff, with Easter around the corner. Since planning to become a pastor, I tend to think about what I might say in my sermons, what messages might I take. These passages hold so many possibilities, and I was excited to hear the pastor’s sermon. Was he going to talk about the miracle of Jesus’s forgiveness? Was he going to talk about the sacrifice that was made so that we may be forgiven? Was he going to talk about why Pilate seemed so hesitant?
He does talk a little about Pilate’s story, about how he was in the dog house with Herod and Rome and that he was just told to make the Hebrews happy. But he focuses in on the shouts from the crowd. About how over and over Pilate keeps trying to ask them to be logical, to be rational, to give reason for Jesus’s punishment, but instead the crowd keeps shouting over and over, “Crucify him!” The pastor asks us if we’ve ever been in an argument where eventually the people are just shouting and not hearing the other any more. How sentences get lost, and we aren’t listening.
I’m with him now, I’m excited, I’ve been really working on my active listening and conflict resolution and I can see where this is going, and it sounds like he’s got a really great insight here.
“We need to stay away from people like that. Stay away from those who are yelling and can’t hear. Find solace in those who are like you. Spend time with those in your faith community. Don’t worry yourself with the yelling of others. They aren’t the kind of people you should surround yourself with.”
Image credit: feedough / 123RF Stock Photo
Pastor say what?
The sermon revolved around hiding out with those who are like you, and staying away from people who are different, who might be bad, who might not listen? WHAT?
I kept telling myself he was going some where, that it wasn’t that. That he wouldn’t take the message of Jesus forgiving that huge crowd, forgiving the men who put the crown on his head, forgiving all of mankind, he wouldn’t take that message and use it to show people how they should exclude the “other”. Right? I wanted to raise my hand. I wanted to stand up and shout. I bit my tongue. This was not my church, this was not my congregation, and this was not my pastor. I thought about talking to him after the service, but I found myself so filled with anger that I just nodded and smiled and hugged my family goodbye.
As soon as I got into my car and the doors were closed I began yelling myself. I became that crowd in Luke. I yelled to God about how that can be acceptable, how His message can be so distorted. Eventually my yelling became calmer, it relaxed into my usual prayers, my conversations with God. I was reminded that this will happen to me again, especially as I continue schooling and even once I am a pastor myself, and I am sure that I will say things that might make some young future pastor just as outraged (I hope not!). As much as I disagree, I have to respect that it was his congregation he was preaching to, and I couldn’t wait to get back to my home church, to a message I understand and agree with, to a message of love, acceptance, and inclusion.