Every preacher faces a choice. One can preach stability, promoting the existing spiritual situation of the congregation. This is preaching what the congregation desires to hear: they are doing well and they are headed for salvation. On the other hand, one can decide to preach transformation, promoting a higher level of spirituality for a congregation so it can recognize the need to move closer to the Triune God. Most congregations do not like to hear preaching that tells them to change, making them uncomfortable with the lives they lead. Transformative preaching takes courage and skill. A quick review of the preaching lives of two historical preachers might put this concept into better focus.
I haven’t found anything about the world’s record for the shortest sermon. But there is the story from tradition reported by St. Jerome of St. John to whom the fourth gospel is attributed.By the time he was old, frail, infirm, and had to be carried into the sanctuary John was down to the one same sermon, repeated Sunday to Sunday until he reached his death bed. His sermon was: “Little children, love one another.”It’s a timely sermon for any congregation, anywhere, and it hardly takes ninety-three hours to say it. But I suspect it requires a lifetime to do it, maybe longer.
Here we go! It’s time for the sermon I bet most of us have heard at least once in our lifetime.
This Sunday we will hear the Gospel reading taken from John 6:1-15. This is the story of the multiplication of loaves, where Christ feeds 5000 people with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish (a pretty impressive miracle wouldn’t you think?).
Depending on your pastor, it might be time for the Silly Sermon of the year where they like to proclaim that the real miracle was not the multiplication of the loaves at all. The real miracle was that the people, inspired by Jesus of course, took out the food they had stashed under their cloaks and tunics and shared it with everybody else. The preacher will then proclaim that this is an even greater miracle than the multiplication of the loaves. Can you imagine it? People actually sharing? Wow!
I can’t quite get myself to see much of a miracle in a bunch of guys pulling sandwiches out their pockets and sharing them. Well, just for fun, let’s pretend that it is.
In that case, my generation had a much bigger miracle than this one that we can brag about. At the Woodstock festival, way back in August of 1969, there was all kinds of sharing going on. I’m not sure if Jesus was there or not but I’m pretty sure there were a lot of folks there that may have thought that they were Jesus. Anyway, at Woodstock the hippies not only shared their food but they were sharing their drugs and some were even sharing their bodies with almost anyone they met. Now that was huge. Quite the miracle don’t you think? It makes Jesus’ miracle look small in comparison. Maybe Jimi Hendrix made them share all their stuff, I’m not sure. I don’t know what possessed them to do it but most of them don’t remember doing it anyway. Most people my age aren’t even sure if they were there or not. We think we were; but we’re not sure, a miracle in its own right, maybe. We could have stepped through a wormhole or a time warp or something.
Anyhow, I’ve given you ample warning. So now you can remember to put your thinking caps on before you go to church because you may need them: the “miracle of sharing” sermon is coming to a parish somewhere close to you this Sunday. I can hardly wait, can you? Let’s all just share in the silliness!
Oh, and just one word of apology to all my stingy, non-sharing Jewish friends. We don’t really believe this sermon, it’s just so much fun. So lighten up, would ya?