This weekend found me in San Francisco with Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather, who I hadn’t seen in a long long time. We did the Walk Around San Francisco thing, we did the Expensive Boho Tea House thing, The Best Pizza In Berkeley Thing, we stumbled into a Happy Hour in Chinatown that rocked, and we even went to Pier 39, where we spent exactly three minutes looking at the sea lions before we had to take off.
We also went to a church Merriweather had heard about before. (It’s not this church, I just recognize the need for graphics in these long text posts). Since the service was at noon, it was easily catchable. And it was one of those pleasant non-denominational yet uber high tech churches, the kind that have the roving cameras, and they cross-cut during the songs so the whole thing looks like a Christian music video.
And I was excited about going, because I was eager to hear a new church. My church is fine, and pleasant, and yet I feel myself stagnating in my spiritual growth.
So here I am, hopped up on a large chai latte and ready to hear the WORD, ready to LEARN, ready to be CHALLENGED, ready to be INSPIRED.
The sermon is appropriately Easter themed – Jesus at the crossroads in Gethseme. And the slickly produced video that went before the sermon was intriguing enough, saying that sometimes the question isn’t which road do I go down, but how painful will it be. Okay, great, cool, totally been there, hit me with an amazing sermon that I can latch onto.
And yet… I got lost. No, no, not lost, I knew I exactly what it was. The sermon just… didn’t engage me. And then I felt so badly that I didn’t connect with the sermon more and WHY wasn’t I connecting with the sermon more? Why did I keep falling asleep? I thought the chai latte would keep me up! I don’t have to worry about the pastor seeing me fall asleep in front of him, we were in the overflow room watching the video screen of him.
I felt even worse when after the sermon, Merriweather says how much she really got into the sermon, it really made her think, she wishes she could get her boyfriend to listen to more sermons like these. I was about to say, “I was kinda bored,” but I couldn’t after Merriweather’s rave.
Typically in situations like these, my automatic response is not speak up! But what’s wrong with you? Everyone else liked it, why didn’t you?
So I thought maybe I should give it another try. Blame it on the chai latte, it socked me out instead of perking me up.
So yesterday, I wandered onto the church’s website, where don’tcha know, they upload all the pastor’s sermons with sound AND video. No mp3s for this tech crowd, you get picture too! (makes sense, this is San Francisco, a tech mecca).
And I listen to the sermon again, about the choice Jesus faced in the garden of Gethsemane. How not his will, but God’s must be done.
I remembered more than I thought I would. But the sermon still didn’t do anything for me. Maybe I’m just spoiled from my current home church, who have bullet points galore for each sermon, and commit themselves to whole books of the Bible to study (we’re doing the Beatitudes currently). This slick-techy church had three bullet points at the end, and didn’t really go into detail about them.
The whole experience makes me wonder what I need or expect from a sermon from a church. It sounds wrong to say, I wanna be entertained! Because while humor is helpful, it can also be superficial, and one would think studying the word of God would warrant a deeper effort.
But what do I expect when I listen to a sermon?
1. I want to engage. That means that whatever the sermon topic is about has some direct reference or bearing on my life and that’s what’s going to make me sit up and pay attention.
2. I want to learn. Either something I had never considered, or a new look at something I did know before.
3. I will pursue/I won’t give up – If I didn’t get it the first time, I’ll try again. I’ll find the sermon again, I’ll listen to it again. If I still don’t get it, I’ll looks into things myself. The reason why I sometimes do 6 week series of stuff in the Bible is what happens when I don’t get stuff from my church.
It’s not enough to say “I didn’t get it” and walk away. TRY to get it. This isn’t about trying to be good (which is practically impossible anyway)., and it’s not about complete knowledge of God, because that’s equally impossible.
This is about not giving up on the pursuit of understanding. Because it’s that pursuit of God that draws you in relationship to Him.
I’m not saying I have all the answers, because hell, no, I don’t. I just know that nobody ever got anywhere by giving up. Even in a techy-slick church.