Lifesong was a church which was not afraid to break traditional bounds in the interest of a genuine desire to get closer to Jesus, to seek answers about our God and our lives, when it was not easy, simple or carefully scripted. In that light, I’ve had some pretty offbeat sermons in my time there. There were sermons which didn’t resolve nicely, didn’t tie the bow, stirring up questions instead of answering them. There were sermons in which I pretended for the entire time to be Moses, transported by time machine to the future, or John, or the criminal on the cross (before he was on the cross) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, or dozens of other people from scripture and life. There were sermons which were discussions, activities and game shows.
I’ve showed a lot of videos in these sermons; movie clips, tv clips, original creations done on my iPhone or someone’s computer, Sermon Spice, and lots of inspirational videos garnered from various sources. The Video below is the video I would have showed this Morning at Lifesong if we were meeting in Cielo Azul. Out of respect for parents who look to church to be a safe refuge for their children from a rude and uncaring world, I would probably remove the first two lines which include a TV sized swear word, but here on the information super-highway were no such refuge is expected to exist, I’ll just warn you that as Radar O’Reily (from an old TV show called M.A.S.H for you youngsters)would have said it’s the H.E. Double hockey sticks. You’ve been warned. I would also take the time at church to explain that this is a graduation speech from David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College in 2005. This means that he is careful to indicate that all his conclusions have nothing to do with religion or God. I would argue that he’s wrong about this; either disingenuous or mistaken, that his conclusions only make sense in the light of God and that more importantly, the purposes for our church would be to say…
“Lifesingers, continue to be people who break traditional bounds of life in the interest of a genuine desire to get closer to Jesus and to continually seek answers about our God and our lives, even when not easy, simple or carefully scripted. You may not find offbeat sermons, or even a community to help push you in this regard, at lest not at first. But like the woman with the bleeding, or the paralytic, or Zacheeus, any number of other people we’ve learned about in our years of church, as you continue to try with all you’ve got just to get a little closer to Jesus; furthermore to be open and honest about how much bigger God is than your comprehension, to flee from the formula pushers and to bless as many people who cross your path as you can, then you will yourself become the offbeat sermon. You don’t need to pretend to be Moses, just be you. You are too special, have too much to offer to huddle in an elementary school on the edge of town. You are a steward of God’s manifold grace. You are unafraid of asking the questions which may bring peace, challenge, or light to someone else. Speak as if you speak the very words of God. Serve with the strength which God provides. Choose to see life differently than your fellow man. Take what’s true and special about this video, the reflected light of God passed through the prism of a man who may or may not recognize from where that light comes, and with gratitude for the revelation of Jesus Christ in your hearts go forth to choose to bless. The ark has landed. Now it’s time to be fruitful and multiply. ”
I would tell them a story, a simple one to remind them how we don’t have to be dramatically different to make dramatic differences. Yesterday my family went out to eat for my oldest son’s 16th birthday. We went to California Pizza Kitchen. As it turned out, they were training the staff on a new way to do the pizza dough, a process which had thrown the entire kitchen behind by about half an hour. Our server, as it also turns out , was in his second day on the job. Our food took longer to come out than usual and when it did, one of our pizzas was incorrect. While sitting at the table (with the extra time we had) I had registered on my phone for CPK’s new rewards program which our server did not know much about. A manager came over and fixed our rewards program issue for us. So, all through this, our poor server was friendly, helpful, enthusiastic, never grumpy. He apologized and owned up to the pizza mistake as his. He kept us informed on the state of the kitchen. Towards the end of our meal, I called both him and the manager over. I told them that it was clearly a long night for CPK, but that i wanted to commend our server on being such a positive influence through the whole thing. I commended him for his friendliness, his honesty, and his hard work on our behalf. At the end of the night, the server came and actually sat down next to me briefly when he brought me the bill. ‘I just want you to know,’ he said, ‘ you made my week. Just to know there are nice people out there. It made my perspective this night.’ My son noted that this young man was a better server not only with us but with everyone, after this little encouragement. We have the ability, the choice to bless as our Lord chooses to bless us.
Since we will not have video at the park where we meet tomorrow and since I want to make them think about these things beyond the service itself, I will instead read them the above words, and then send them home with Lifesong’s final homework (yes we did that too), to watch this video below. And that will be my final sermon for Lifesong.