A good place to practice. (Gavin Tyte @ Upsplash)
Pssst…Valentine’s Day is almost here. It’s not too late to send out a quick message or make a phone call or send me a big bouquet of flowers. Oh, and your congregation needs a little lovin’ too. Here are some simple ideas from last week’s post: 4 Ways to Love On Your People for Valentine’s Day.
A couple of weeks ago, my dear old Sunday School friend, the Rev. Dr. Paul Capetz sent me his sermon, Why Do We Preach? Paul is the pastor of the charming Christ Church by the Sea UMC in Newport Beach, CA. Paul is a theologian – he has his MDiv from Yale and a PhD from the U of Chicago (I feel smarter just getting an email from him) and he was a seminary professor for many years. Now he’s in the trenches and leads a small congregation. It’s been a joy to watch him grow in this new venture. When Paul talks, I sit up and listen.
In Why Do We Preach?, Rev. Capetz makes some well-founded, theologically-sound assertions that might make some feel a little uncomfortable. Many of you, dear readers, undoubtedly know why you preach. But these three points were a revelation to me.
1. Preaching is speaking for God. Friends, that is a bold statement. And that is why Rev. Capetz says, clergy need to take their sermons seriously and make them with great care because they (you) are proclaiming God’s Word. “While we believe that the biblical writers were inspired by God, the Bible is not the Word of God when it is sitting on the shelf gathering dust. It has to be opened and read, and once read, it has to be interpreted, just as Moses interpreted the words that he had received from God on Mount Sinai to the Israelites.”
2. We speak the Word of God in order to save people. In some churches, those are fighting words. However, this isn’t salvation by damning people from the pulpit. As Rev. Capetz says, “[Jesus] came, not to destroy persons who were held captive by evil forces but to destroy those evil forces that held them captive. For, by doing so, he saved these persons; he restored them to their right mind, he rescued their humanity, he gave them back their freedom to be responsible moral agents in the world.”
3. Preaching isn’t something that only the minister does. Now it’s personal. Might I have a responsibility to do something once I hear the Word proclaimed? “What the minister does in the pulpit on Sunday morning is merely representative of what all of us are called to do in our daily lives as we communicate with others the words of God that have transformed our lives by freeing us to live as authentic human beings in the open spaces created by God’s power and love.”
What does this have to do with preaching about money?
Those of you who have the task of giving sermons on a weekly basis – at some point – must talk about the hold money and possessions have over our lives. The “talk” isn’t about your congregation getting more money in the offering plate (ah, remember those?). It’s about a fundamental change in our relationship with money. Once we as a people are free from the notion that money is our “salvation” it opens our hearts to generosity. We are freer to give our resources to ministries that make a difference. We stop giving out of obligation and start giving from a place of deep joy.
Your sermons can help change the world. You can influence people to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.” Your preaching of the Word can reframe how we look at and respond to money. What an awesome responsibility. What an amazing gift.
Thanks be to God!