The Art of Asking

Somebody once asked how you judged sermons. Okay, many people did. The funny thing is judging a sermon depends upon the congregation. For example there are three congregations on our corner: Lutheran, Northern Baptist and African American. Not that you couldn’t deliver roughly the same sermon in words before each, but the reaction would be different in each. Part of that is because the sermon is a shared experience. There are a thousand ways that a sermon goes bad and you can diagnose those. But a good sermon is just The Word. How do you know? At the end, you just say “Word”. I just heard truth, more like Truth.

Although not in a Christian context, not even explicitly spiritual, this is The Word. There is something deeply true about this presentation.

Stepping Back from the Brink

1. Here is Dr. Haidt on talking about one way to step back. What he does is force what I’d call an admission of sin. Each polarized side has “things that they have left undone” as the corporate confession says. Recognizing that is the start of actually addressing the problem.

2. Rod Dreher takes this to an interesting place in regards to civil law. Confirmation 101 stuff: Q. What is the first use of the law? A. Civil or curb. The government/state/Caesar holds the sword for a purpose. As we ask for in our prayers for the state, we ask that they “make, administer and judge our laws…according to Your holy will”. What that all means is that our laws have a teaching function. This is appropriate behavior, and this is not. They are a curb, with the sovereign in place to protect the mass of society from the depravity from the few. God help the people whose sovereigns abdicate this responsibility. The bible might say it is analogous to having a child as the king. (Eccl 10:16) What Mr. Dreher points out is that really simple laws work for the best of society. Including really simple rules like “don’t smoke pot” or “get married, stay married, and raise your kids within marriage”. Rich and clever people can break the rules and come out smelling like a rose. Who amongst you were wise, powerful, or noble birth? (1 Cor 1:26) Or maybe, Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom – James 3:13. The wise abide by simple rules out of meekness knowing that creates the better society. The rest of us abide by simple rules because: “hey, we might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, why push it.”

3. The Gospel Coalition on the one really simple rule that we all have ruled ourselves smarter and wiser than all of recorded history on.

How do we step back from the brink? Confession, absolution, walking in the way we should go. That’s not so hard is it?

The TED Sermon

If you have every been forwarded a video clip with “inspiring” or “heartfelt” or “eye-opening” on it, there is a high likelihood is comes from TED. The people that populate TED all have something to say and they typically say it well. The time is usually 15 mins plus or minus 5 mins. There are usually three things that will appear in each talk: 1) a told story that kick-starts or sums up in action the central point, 2) an a-ha! now I get it moment where the speaker reveals the main point and what came together for eureka and 3) an oh crap! moment when the implications of the aha! are spelled out. What I take most of TED to be is a secular sermon. Now I realize that applying the word sermon to anything probably reduces the interest at least 50% (oh, ok, 75%). But, I take TED as proof that even amongst the (over?) smart set, there is still the need to hear the Word. And even to be challenged – that oh crap! portion. (I also fret constantly over what I’ll call the recording effect. At one time in Italy every reasonably sized town employed a tenor for the opera. With the advent of recording, when I could bring La Scala’s tenor into my living room, all of a sudden my local production lost value and the number of unemployed tenors went way up.) But beyond job security worries the other thing that is interesting is how many of the TED sermons when you scratch beneath the secular veneer are just re-iterating either the gospel or the wisdom literature.

These are three that I’ve watched recently that capture some of that.

Think Christmas in incarnation behind this one…

Think confession and absolution for this one…

And this one is just interesting, but I’d put it in the wisdom category with a gospel tie-in around death and resurrection (a seed has to die for the plant to arise; a lecture has to die for real learning take place)…

“I’d Rather Text than Talk” – Shaped by Technology

Take 20 mins to watch this…

One the one hand I could put it in the “kids these days” folder, on the other I think there is an emerging theme in the technological world that each new invention promises a fuller and more connected life but each one ends up removing a bit of our humanity and placing us a little further away from any real connection with each other. If anyone has read That Hideous Strength, I couldn’t help but think of it and the depiction of battling the powers.