It was women’s day at Trinity and there was a guest preacher. It was the culmination of a weekend conference. The preacher was Rev. Courtney Clayton Jenkins from Euclid Ave Congregational Church in Cleveland. She brought a powerful message about the way all of us – and particularly women – can lose our cutting edge like the “junior prophet” in this Elisha story.
Rather than summarize her sermon, I simply want to reflect on botht the sermons I heard on Sunday – at Trinity and Shekinah. These were specific sermons cultivated for a particular audience. Pastor Curry was preaching on effective leadership, Pastor Clayton Jenkins on Women’s Day. Yet these were sermons that revived my spirit – not as a spectator but a participant.
This is the clearest way to understand the Word of God as a living word. Between the preacher’s lips and the listeners’ ears, the Holy Spirit intercedes. The word becomes THE WORD. This is also why scripture is not static or infallible. For it to be without error requires it to be unchanging, requires a suspension of context and culture, expects that what God said thousands of years ago remains unchanged. If our God was made of stone or gold I could buy that. But our God is a living God. The TRUTH of God – of grace and mercy, of calling us back, of covenant and promise – these are the nature of who God is. How those truths are revealed by God and among God’s people is always contextual, always relevant.
The word is living, but I have to be willing to participate to tap into that power. I’ve heard plenty of bad sermons. There are places that expect excellent preaching and places that have no expectations for preaching. When I’m in a place of low/no expectations, when I for whatever reason close myself to the words of the preacher, I am actually denying the power of God. I assume that God can’t use this voice, this context, this situation to speak a word of promise into my life.
It is the difference between going to a ballgame and playing a game. Last weekend I took my daughters to a friends’ birthday party. When kickball started, they were both hesitant. Neither had played kickball so they wanted to check it out first. With some encouragement, Eleanor decided to play. She kicked, she caught, she even pitched. Annie was unable to move off the picnic table and get in the game. She was quite happy to watch and did not feel like she missed out on anything.
With preaching, it is easy to expect the preacher to do all the work. They are the ones called to that task, trained and cultivated a way to deliver what they (we) believe God is speaking in this moment. But preaching is an experience begging participation. I need to be open to the fact that Shekinah Chapel can speak to me, my culture, my context. I need to expect that Women’s Day is for me too.
Sabbatical is easy to give me a view from the picnic table. I can watch others “do church.” I could be a voyer and assume this isn’t my place. Or I can hear the encouragement to stop watching and join in the fun of what is going on around me.