Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Poor Sermon on a Pretty Day


“In general, I weathered even the worst sermons pretty well. They had the great virtue of causing my mind to wander. Some of the best things I have ever thought of I have thought of during bad sermons. Or I would look out the windows. In winter, when the windows were closed, the church seemed to admit the light strictly on its own terms, as if uneasy about the frank sunshine of this benighted world. In summer, when the sashes were raised, I watched with a great, eager pleasure the town and the fields beyond, the clouds, the trees, the movements of the air—but then the sermons would seem more improbable. I have always loved a window, especially an open one.”1
Wendell Berry is a masterful writer. In one paragraph he captures a wealth of emotions and several insights into the human predicament. It is as if the first-person-speaker represents several church-attendees in a few sentences. First there is the preacher who, despite his best efforts, has delivered a poor sermon. Does he know he is delivering a bad sermon? Can he see it on the faces of the people in the seats; in the eyes that wander or close; in the rustle of pages and shifting of Sunday clothes? Next there is the person whose mind is wandering to other thoughts and other places. What is it that has contributed to these "best things [they] have ever thought?" Is it the preacher; the quiet atmosphere of the church building; or the songs that have been sung? Finally, there is the person who unabashedly stares out the window and observes the creation. Is this person tuned into God or wholly disconnected? Neither the preacher nor the reader knows the answer to these questions. It is as God says in Jeremiah 17:10, "But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve." May God be gracious with a greater measure of grace than we have given.

              Long Sermon (Brad Paisley)
    They've read the scripture, they've passed the plate
    And we're both prayin', he don't preach late
    But he's gettin' "Amens", and that's just our luck
    Yeah, it's eighty-five degrees outside and he's just gettin' warmed up

    Oh you and me, we could be soakin' up that sun
    Findin' out just how fast your brother's boat'll run
    I tell you there ain't nothin' that'll test your faith
    Like a long sermon on a pretty Sunday

    Well it's been rainin' all week long
    I woke up this mornin', the dark clouds were gone
    We've both been raised not to miss church
    But on a day like today heaven knows how much it hurts

    'Cause you and me, we could be soakin' up that sun
    Findin' out just how fast your brother's boat'll run
    I tell you there ain't nothin' that'll test your faith
    Like a long sermon on a pretty Sunday

    See that sunlight shinin' through that stained glass
    How much longer is this gonna last

    Yeah, you and me, we could be soakin' up that sun
    Findin' out just how fast your brother's boat'll run
    I tell you there ain't nothin' that'll test your faith
    Like a long sermon on a pretty Sunday
    Like a long sermon on a pretty Sunday

    Brad Paisley and Tim Nichols; Published by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.


1. Jayber Crow, Wendel Berry, p.

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