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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Proclamation. . . of what?

One of my classmates walked out of chapel today, during the sermon. Near the beginning, actually: after the preacher made a political reference that occasioned an audibly negative response from the congregation.

I was one of those. I heard the words "premillenial dispensationalism," and laughed-- a teasing response born out of 3 1/2 hours of sweaty composition on that topic during the GOE's. I did not intend in any way for that laughter to be related to the connection the preacher made, to specific government policies and officials. However, when our brother fled the chapel, I understood that my reaction had been unthinking, and could easily have been misconstrued to be a personal slam against the named officials in question. Now understand, my friends, that would be behavior I would find untenable in any circumstance; but especially in the context of worship. The thought that my actions were possibly perceived that way is appalling.

I was wrong not to consider the possibility that my response might be misunderstood; and if it came across that way, enough that someone felt impelled to leave, I'm sorry. And as soon as I can find the student in question, I will tell him so.

At the same time I was also embarrassed, because the preacher's response to his departure was audibly cavalier. It felt inappropriate, and glib, and disturbed me almost as much as the discomfort I felt at the departure itself. I squirmed uncomfortably about that for the rest of the service.

In talking about this incident afterward, another classmate made a comment that sticks with me. "Today I learned a lesson about the difference between a liberating pulpit and a bashing pulpit." It is way too easy to lose sight of the power that preaching wields, and the damage that can be done thereby if we are not careful.

Always be ready to make your defense to those who demand an accounting of the hope that is in you; yet do so with gentleness and reverence. 1 Peter 3:15.

If I ever show signs of forgetting this, remind me, please. With a 2x4, if necessary.


Blogger Ryan said...


I know that what you and likely many others chuckled about was the reference to "premillenial dispensationalism", which I caught as a reference to the GOE questions. One of the parts that upset me was how the joke was weaved together and that not everyone was likely to get it, obviously. But what's the point of making that joke from the pulpit? It's twice this week I've heard political figure bashing from a pulpit, and to what end? It's inappropriate and irresponsible on the part of the preacher.

However, that was not the thing that had me the most upset. When my colleague walked out of the chapel, the response that came from the pulpit was obnoxious, to put it mildly. I couldn't stand it; it hurt me pretty bad. To me, this sermon was just another one on the pile of irresponsible and heterodox sermons we've been receiving on Tuesdays and when someone had finally had enough and had the courage to show it, the slings and arrows flew. And they struck home, so, I hope the preacher is happy.


May 03, 2005 8:15 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ouch. I'll never forget my homilitics class last year with the venerable and fearsome Rev. Dr. Linda Clader, who told us in no uncertain terms that "in" jokes and catty political remarks were off limits in sermons for reasons "she was sure we would understand." It being an election year, the temptation proved too great for a few of my classmates, and anyone who dared to slip in such things during their classroom sermon exercises got an earful at feedback time. At the very least, I hope it wasn't a member of your faculty who engaged in such shenanigans.

- Karen (CDSP)
(posting anonymously since Blogger is being difficult)

May 03, 2005 9:04 PM  

Blogger Dawgdays said...

If I ever show signs of forgetting this, remind me, please. With a 2x4, if necessary.

I think you need not worry. This phrase I heard from you:

Strong beliefs, held gently.

May 04, 2005 9:06 PM  

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