*This marks the inaugural voyage of a new series I'm doing where each Monday I plan on greeting you with an Internet sermon. Creatively, I’m calling them “Monday Sermons,” and please do feel free to tithe on the way out.*
Hi! Hello There! Let's get started.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from Cathy cartoons over the years, it’s that LITERALLY EVERYONE ON EARTH HAS A SCORCHING CASE OF THE MONDAYS. Like cockroaches scurrying about after the impending nuclear holocaust, a shared hatred of Mondays will be the last remaining thing any of us will agree upon on the other side of the 2016 presidential election.
The sun of prehistory majestically crests over the mountains on Pangea as it breaks fresh ground on another morning long before more evolved humans would spring to life each day by sleepily skimming through their notifications for so long they now no longer have enough time to take a shower before work. Typically in the ancient world, dawn is a serenely peaceful event, but this morning the chirping birds awake Grog to the disappointing news that (once again) Slagathor has left the entrance to the cave uncovered, and this time, instead of letting an overnight rain ruin all the animal skins, a roving pack of hyenas has carried away 2 members of his tribe during the night.
I MEAN, MONDAYS, RIGHT!?
First century religious professionals were often found of saying anytime they heard folks mention that a certain Jesus of Nazareth was the longed-for messiah bringing heaven to earth: ”Uhh, yeah that’s great and all, but can anything good come from Nazareth?” which may be your exact thinking about a few words I’ve employed thus far, namely:
sermons and Mondays.
As in: “Eric, dude, the only way you can make Mondays immeasurably worse than they already are is to give some tone deaf white dude a microphone, a centuries old source book, and at least 3 can't miss anecdotes about playing golf.”*
(*NOTE: I once made a Kanye West joke during a sermon in front of probably 200 retirees in East Tennessee and obviously LIVE LIFE WITH NO REGRETS.)
Now that I’m hearing it myself, I totally understand the hesitation you might be feeling about adding one more monologue to the beginning of your week. However, there’s this thing inside of me (probably gas) that still persists in believing something inherently captivating happens when all of us collectively suspend judgment for about 35 minutes once a week in order to leave the door cracked on whether or not there’s anything new to say about God’s involvement (or sometimes lack thereof) in the universe.
Believe me, I’ve frustratingly spent the last year of my life trying to shake this feeling off, but like pug hair on anyone’s pants after visiting my home, there’s no amount of vigorous brushing that will remove my stubborn belief that sermons, even on a Monday, can do something beneficial for the world. Even if all they end up “doing" is giving you a chance to hit a momentary pause on things you were already going to do with your life because of where you live, and how much money you make, and who your parents are, and how many kids you have, and what political party you affiliate with, and what you think makes for a “great” sandwich*.
(*BTW: THE CORRECT ANSWER IS ALMOST NEVER MAYONNAISE).
This is true especially when we keep in mind that the reading, or the listening, or the sermonizing about difficult and confusing ancient texts written by dead people doesn't actually constitute the “doing really interesting things” part of our lives. I’ve personally found that the truly great sermons have this uncanny ability to be confidently themselves, even when those of us listening to them or even giving them haven’t been confidently ourselves since the 5th grade (middle school has a rather nasty habit of letting the air out of everyone's tires).
Here’s what I mean:
In my old gig I found that anytime I was charged with “giving the sermon” this terrible dread would whisper to me that people are probably going to fire me (or just passive aggressively change my family’s health insurance plan) because of the unsatisfactory answers I sometimes uttered into microphones about things none of us know for sure. Yet, strangely, no matter how difficult these things seemed on the front end, I somehow managed (time and again) to keep my voice from quaking too awful much when I uttered most of them anyway. Now, this isn’t because I possess some superhuman backbone, clinically speaking I'm fairly certain I have a terminal case of desperately caring what other people think of me (I willingly posted this on the Internet so that you would think I’m cool and smart, did it work?)
What I’m saying is that the backbone isn’t mine and it isn’t yours, it’s the divine’s.
Because the best sermons are simply a trembling stab at trying to believe in something in front of other people who are just as afraid as you are to be wrong, except the one difference is that one of you has the courage to be wrong out loud. Which also means that sermons aren't just a stuffy appetizer we all miserably survive in order to earn bottomless breadsticks at the Olive Garden near the airport, they’re an embodied act of courage where we (sometimes misguidedly or confusingly or with terribly unfunny asides) attempt to put flesh and blood on that thing people have for years sometimes called “the moral arc of the universe” or “the Spirit” or “Bob Dylan before he went electric”.
And finally (with the keyboard synth picking up steam behind me), the most important part of a sermon that confidently knows what its job is, is that it leaves you with this sneaking suspicion that “yeah, I could probably do that. Ahh, who am I kidding, I KNOW I could do that.”
The worst kept secret about that “instruction manual for living” everyone keeps droning on about each Sunday around your town is that instead of answering every question you might possibly have about domestic policy and Internet etiquette, the Bible mostly reads like IKEA directions for unsafely building an EXPEDIT bookshelf (in that you always have leftover parts you were probably supposed to use but didn't).
Yes, I’m incredibly handy why do you ask?
Just prior to spending the rest of its time attempting to intimidate you with might, political power, and dynamite programming for YOUTHS!, the Christian faith was simply a humble invitation from a Nazareth born rabbi with next to nothing to his name, to foolishly live as if the future flourishing of the world depended upon a few scruffy fishermen and the women paying their bills.
And even long before people started thanking him for touchdowns and Grammys, “God-in-the-flesh” thought it would be a terrific idea to spend his few years on Earth reminding the world that everyone has a sermon in them, everyone has an incarnation in them, everyone has an invitation in them, everyone has a resurrection in them, and everyone has this mysterious, Dylan-esque spirit holding their bones together.
Especially if they’re weird.
Especially if they’re poor.
Especially if they’re rejected.
Especially if they speak with an accent.
Especially if they can’t get clean.
Especially if they aren’t “very religious,” or maybe more surprisingly, sometimes even when they are.
Despite previously scheduled weekend programming, Christianity has always been a Monday-morning faith, in that it beautifully (and stubbornly) mixes failure and fresh starts over and over and over again for all of us groggily staring at our phones in the predawn fog.
I’ve missed this, wanna do it again next week?
*photo credit: Tim Green, Creative Commons