So this church had so much going on I decided to put it in two installments. I will now continue.
Beliefs: This church did not mention or claim a bigger group that they are a member of, such as a denomination. Instead they read a series of faith statements before the sermon. Here are the ones I managed to write down:
We believe the bible is infallible.
We believe in the trinity.
We believe Christ will return.
We believe repentance and faith save us from sin.
We believe the Holy Spirit is needed for salvation.
We believe in baptism with the Holy Spirit.
We believe in the ministry outlined in Ephesians. (Anyone know what this is?)
In addition the church recited the Apostles Creed together, so they must believe in that.
Pre-sermon: After a call for ‘testimonies’ several people came up and shared positive news. At other churches this section might be called praises or joys.
Sermon: So I had some trouble understanding parts of the sermon, mostly because of the acoustics in this church but also partly because I had some difficulty with the dialect of the pastor and copastor. The church membership is mostly Black, and the some of the speech patterns are less familiar to me. Properly stated, this is an probably example of African American Vernacular English, which has usage differences as well as pronunciation differences from what ever dialectic category I fall under. Now that you’ve had your linguistics lesson for today, let’s continue with the parts of the sermon I was able to catch.
The sermon started with 2 ways evil/problems may enter your life. The first is by God, the second through sin. The example for God causing evil is the story of Job. I have mixed feelings about blaming God for problems. I’ve encountered the idea before in the following form; God tests us by giving us hard things to experience and it is through this that we grow. I get that it’s mechanism for people to understand their problems by, but I’m not sure it squares well with the how I feel about God being all about love.
The second way for evil to enter your life is through sin. This does make some sense to me. Making mistakes in life can lead to a string of problems. Saying sin leads to evil is another way of saying this. Explaining the two reasons for evil are better than a single blanket reason. If the explanation doesn’t go too far into specifics this leaves it up to the individual to decide if there are changes that need to be made or if it’s an opportunity for growth. Of course I’m interpreting very broadly here about both these interpretations of sin. The nice thing about this sermon was that it wasn’t that specific about what falls into the categories, so I could be more metaphorical in my interpretation.
The only other things I wrote in my notes were a couple of statements that spoke to me. The first went, “Don’t look at me like I’m God, I’m human.” This is a great thing to put in a sermon. Pastors have whatever power leadership brings. It’s a good sign when a leader, especially a religious leader, acknowledges their own humanity and propensity to failure. Sometimes the opposite happens and a religious leader claims exclusive access to God and them runs with it, convincing others to follow into negative stuff. Looking at Jesus, who did claim access to God, I notice even he empowered others to access God. I’m thinking of the times he told his disciples to heal others, pray for miracles and give money to those in need.
The second cool thing that was said was, “God’s gonna free you from religion.” This was a week in which I felt God nudging me, and this was one of the bits that drove that home. I do feel like we are constricted by religion. I do feel that what I’m looking for, what I’d really like to find in my project, is less religion and more of a feeling; a sense that this is ok and I can be myself with those who will not care about my quirks or find my thought processes too odd. I want something indescribable. When I think about the word religion it feels like a thing that is all too often filled with rules and gestures that are empty. Pastor says God’s gonna free me from this. Well, I sure hope that’s right.