Summary: In this second message in the series How to Listen to a Sermon, Dave focuses in on the importance mystery.
Don’t Forget the Mystery
How to Listen to a Sermon, prt. 2
Wildwind Community Church
January 23, 2011
Nice to be back with you this week. Of course two weeks ago we watched a preview for Financial Peace University, and last week I was out of town with my daughter Brittany. We spent the weekend in Rock Island, IL checking out Augustana College. Brit did a few scholarship interviews there, we toured the campus, and just generally had a fantastic weekend together. I know I will always be so grateful to have had that opportunity.
So three Sundays ago I began a new series that I want to continue today. It’s called How to Listen to a Sermon. This series is based on the fact that although people have heard hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of sermons in their lives, almost no one has ever heard a sermon about how to listen to a sermon. And this is in spite of the fact that you will not find any Jr. high or high school or college or graduate course that does not begin by going over the syllabus – a document that covers not the class content but how the content will be learned. The syllabus tells students how they will be learning what they will be learning. Lectures, quizzes, tests, online activities, real world experiments, self-study – whatever.
Yet you can leave church every Sunday confident that you will not actually be expected to have learned anything. There will be no test and no quiz. No one will ask to look over your notes. Expectations will be, what? NOTHING. There are no expectations of any kind. You not only show up and listen, free of any expectation that you should be learning anything, but then you get to go out to lunch afterwards and have a discussion about whether or not the teacher even knows anything. :-) But let’s be fair and balanced. After all, why should you assume the teacher really does know anything? If you take a science class, it’s safe to assume the teacher has studied science. If you take an astronomy or math class, it’s safe to assume the teachers have studied astronomy or math. But if you show up every week to listen to somebody preach, what exactly is safe to assume?
That the “teacher” has a degree in theology? Hmmm...I don’t have a degree in theology. That the teacher has studied theology? Hmmm...what kinds of places count as serious study? Does an online theological school count? Does it need to be in one’s own religion? How about one’s own denomination? What if the teacher is from one’s own religion and denomination, but has drastically different political beliefs than you do? Are they still a credible source of spiritual guidance and knowledge and information? What counts as credible? Oh yeah, that’s what we were talking about. If they are in your religion, and your denomination, and if they share reasonably similar political ideas, does this mean you can count on them to be right 100% of the time? How about about 80%? How about 50%? And how do you know which 50%?
In general, it is safe to say we expect our math teachers to know Math, our English teachers to know English, our chemistry teachers to know Chemistry, and our Psychology teachers to know Psychology but as a general rule, we do not expect our spiritual teachers to know God. Why is that? Because only someone who knows math can show you what it means to know math, only someone who knows English can show you what it means to know English, only someone who knows Chemistry can show you what it means to know Chemistry, only someone who knows Psychology can show you what it means to know Psychology, and only someone who knows God can show you what it means to know God. But there are state boards to tell you whether you know math, and whether you know English and Chemistry and Psychology, but who tells you whether you know God? And how do they know?
Do you see how much ambiguity is in here? And yet, every week, millions of people sit in churches as if all of this is perfectly clear, assuming that whoever is standing in front of them knows God, gets it, and has something to say that is somehow indispensable to their personal well-being and relationship with God, yet whatever that thing is we won’t usually even be able to remember all the way through lunch time and by the time Monday morning comes we couldn’t recall what the sermon was about at gunpoint. So does it matter or not? Is it critical or not? Is this coming in to church and teaching and being taught, this preaching and hearing sermons thing, is this really important, or is it a waste of time?