The long silence has finally come to an end. No, I’m not referring to the blog. This Sunday I climbed into a pulpit again after four months of keeping my mouth shut. The congregation at First Presbyterian of Huntington, WV was kind enough to invite me to share some good news. I’d like to believe that the invitation was a result of the mesmerizing sermon I delivered there two years ago, but it likely had more to do with my father in law, Big Daddy, the son of their beloved former pastor Lynn Temple Jones. Big Daddy and Special K, my mother in law, are members there now and I’m convinced half the people in attendance weren’t members but showed up because they owed Big Daddy money. He sells insurance when he isn’t working in his yard or traveling to SC to see his grandkids. Preaching is my love so not preaching for four months was heartbreaking. You know the mythical movie scene when two lovers separated by time and distance are reunited in an airport terminal and they kiss like nobody’s watching? That was me on Sunday.
I did wonder how the experience of helping to start a new church over the last two months would inform my preaching. To be sure, part of our work in developing a new church is deconstructing church as it is. In shaping this new model, we are taking apart the former (not old) model and examining each piece to see if it is really necessary or just some residual artifact from a cultural context that is no longer present.
Worship, and the sermon particularly, is how most people identify, categorize, and critique church, so you would think that this season of deconstruction might impact me as a preacher. Strange as it seems, in most ways, it didn’t. I didn’t use an iPad for my manuscript, step out from the pulpit to connect with the audience, include a movie clip, or wear a mock turtleneck. Tempting as it was to rock a baby mock, grow a flavor savor, or artfully dishevel my hair and pin it in place with some gel so it looks like I just woke up, I couldn’t. It wouldn’t have been me and I can’t grow facial or head hair anyways. Even if I did want to fulfill the stereotype of the hip pastor from the hip new church for even hipper young people, it would have been hard. I tried to keep it real with the window dressing so that whatever word God gave me would be real as well.
I think that’s an important part of who we will be as a Church. My generation has been marketed with such frequency and concentration that “honesty” is now considered old-school. We swoon and marvel at people that are honest in their everyday manner like they are angels, or maybe aliens. I did it just yesterday in describing an acquaintance to another friend. “I love her, she is so honest and straightforward, what you see is what you get.” When did we get so cynical about truth? What would it look like if a church determined to keep it real?