Sermons have a unique purpose; they combine teaching and worship. Since, in recent decades, mostly those in a church building would actually be in the audience, sermons are really directed at Christians. Let’s be honest; very few non-Christians get inside church buildings.
It seems that Christians have this hard task in life: to manifest God to the world. In Christian language, they each need to serve God, and in-so-doing, make real the notion that, not only Christians, but all people, live in God’s kingdom. In the secular Western world, Christians are explicitly told not to impose their belief system onto others in society. That is challenging enough on its own – if not entirely paradoxical. But it should be added that manifesting God’s kingdom is particularly challenging because many Christians don’t actually feel God’s presence, and also because they come from communities which nurture guilt in individual Christians. A great number of Christians (including Catholics also), no matter the denomination, feel the burden of sin and feel they have little claim on joy. This is in direct contrast to some of the actual teachings of scripture.
Some of this is nested into the tendency for individual churches to become “social” entities, bringing with it the burden of pressures to “less-than-honestly” fit in, which inevitably ostracizes or suppresses those with alternative lifestyles seemingly forbidden in scripture. As with social entities generally, there are historical sins woven into the fabric of the church institutions themselves, and in the West, this includes emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. It also includes colonialism and patriarchy which put large portions of the congregations at a disadvantage in accessing the powerful presence of God. Perhaps it might be better if individual churches identified more as communities than as societies, which emphasize discipleship and identity formation more than conformity and social cohesion.
That state of existing in a “social” structure, which, along with charity and ritual, has sin in its very fabric, means that both the disadvantaged and the advantaged suffer. No matter which side you belong to, you are inevitably separated from God – even if you get the minor payoffs of status or profit or honour. Inevitably, these creepy motives serve to separate us from the living God, functioning to prevent both the experience joy and the communication of forgiveness for sin. It is in this context which many of these sermons appear.
Living in Mystery
From Doing to Being: What Stories do we Tell Ourselves (Mark 10:17-31)
Jephthah and his Daughter