I like things to be quite casual in style when it comes to a Sunday Morning Service. That is just taste. It is neither better nor worse than those who prefer things to be formal. I like to dress informally because I am coming into the presence of my Father with my brothers and sisters. It is family time. At the same time I respect deeply those who still feel they should put on their Sunday best for coming before the King of kings and the Lord of lords. In fact casualness in the pulpit these days is giving casualness a bad name. It is becoming a deliberate, consciously worked at casualness, so much so that I would rather now a minister looked like a minister, robes and all, if the alternative is body buffed studied and deliberate coolness or worked at mirror perfected untidiness of dress or hair style. I would rather ministers looked like ministers than models posing. The times are narcissistic enough without having to have narcissists in the pulpit! I am thinking mostly about male ministers when I say this. You female ministers have a difficult enough time in certain sectors of the church. God bless you and good on you! My fellow male ministers: I actually think that carefully styled stubble in the pulpit from macho or not so macho males shows something much more spiritually worrying than an academic hood! It seems “Cool is King” in the pulpit!
Well, that is what I strongly think and I am sticking to it…but maybe not for good. You see, I have not always thought that and may change my mind again another ten years down the line. It is what I currently think and I believe I have good reason and evidence as to why it is true, but I would not add “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” to such pronouncements, as though God by necessity backs up every one of my thoughts and utterances! That is a phrase I have never prayed before or after a sermon in several decades of preaching. There are several reasons I refuse to say that. Sometimes I have preached drivel and God does not speak drivel! At other times I have heard others preach drivel and attach the name of God to it. Also, I have heard myself being quoted in someone else’s sermon… “As Kenny says…” At times I sit there thinking, “Did I say that? I don’t think I said that. In fact I know I didn’t say that because I don’t even believe that! Will others think I did say that and do believe that?” It is actually quite an uncomfortable experience to have your name attached to something you never said and would never dream of saying in time or eternity! If you are preaching this Sunday, I say to you with deepest reverence toward God and respect toward your calling, “I hope that as you preach God’s Word this Sunday there is not a voice in heaven saying: “Did I say that? I am sure I didn’t say that. I know I didn’t! I don’t even believe that about myself, about my people, about my purposes. That is not my heart at all…”
In fact let me notch up the being serious a bit more: if you preach this Sunday and dare to attach the name of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit as a blanket covering to all you say, you may well be guilty of breaking the commandment not to take the name of the Lord our God in vain. For those who preach and lead in congregations, to take the name of the Lord in vain at least in part means attaching the name of God to something He is not doing and not saying. It is to speak forth my own thoughts and ideas and schemes and manipulatively to give them extra weight by attaching the name of God to them. It is to use the Name of God in my own power playing game to steer things in my direction. Please ask God to help you not to break the third commandment. Don’t treat the name of Jesus the way it is often treated in the church and the world these days. He is such a convenient coat stand on which so many people seem to hang their own ideas, campagains and agendas. He has been hijacked by the politically correct in the world and in a poodle church that merely follows the world in the manner of some Prime ministers I could mention following Presidents I could mention, rather than offering another way and pointing to another kingdom. And while I am talking about breaking commandments, make sure too as you preach that you are not breaking another commandment by bearing false witness against your neighbour – for in Christ God moved into the neighbourhood of our humanity and made his home among us. He became our nighbour. It is not nice to lie about or misrepresent your neighbour. It never has a good result nor does it lead to harmonious, happy relationships.
I like humour in preaching so long as it is not overdone or merely self indulgent. At the same time, perhaps in this blog those who know me have learned something that you didn’t know about me before: I always took and still take preaching and teaching God’s word as the most joyful and yet the most fearful calling on earth. I dont think I take myself that seriously, I may be worng, but I do take my calling serioulsy whether that calling is being worked out in a church pulpit or the pulpit of a blog! James tells us a whole forrest can be set on fire by a single spark or flame. In the same way, the tongue of a preacher can do immense damage. It can be like the rudder of a ship that wrecks the ship because it sends it in a wrong direction. That is why James also tells us that not many should desire to be teachers of God’s flock. We will be judged more strictly. Rightly so, for the tongue of a preacher can bless or ruin, build up or destroy lives and congregations, denominations and even, as history proves, the course of nations.
A simple plea: If you do decide to say “In the Name of…” before or after you preach this weekend, at least expand upon it lest those who listen or you yourself get the wrong idea and feed that idea to the extent that you believe the lie yourself or hope they do: If you say it, may you mean this; “In the Name of Our Father who knows I get it so wrong sometimes but forgives, in the Name of the Son who is the true Shepherd of wandering sheep and wandering shepherds, in the Name of the Holy Spirit who can only add His blessing to truth not lie, I stand before you today and dare to speak…God have mercy… God help me…”
This Sunday if you are preaching may it be your prayer for yourself , as it is mine for you, that you do not cause confusion on a hopefully listening earth or in a most definitely listening heaven.
God bless you in your holy calling
Your brother in the Lord,
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