I am in a preaching cohort that is changing my life right now. I am grateful I invested a few more dollars into my education to get this experience. Money is tight for us, and come May it is going to be even tighter—unless I get a job right away. But what this cohort is revealing to me, beyond some great tips on how to create a better sermon, is that I am being called at just the right time for me to preach. The reason I know this is true is because the statement was made that we are working towards getting away from explaining (something I am not all that great at anyway) and moving toward evoking an experience to allow people to have an experience of the Divine on their own. Show the people the character of God. The coach said this:
A sermon is an art form instead of a motivational speech. We are not trying to get something out of people, or trying to put something into people. We are guiding people into an experience to expand their hearts allowing them to experience the Divine or their own hearts and feelings more intimately.
How beautiful is that? I am a 4 on the enneagram and feelings are our jam. I know I drive people crazy wanting them to check in with their feelings and share them if they feel comfortable, but it is so important. Fours are not afraid of negative emotions. I also know it is really important to work on refining why we think the way we think. I have done a lot of work, and I still am, on clearly and concisely stating what I need/want to say in as few words as possible. We, as a society, do a lot of work academically, but not a whole lot of work in becoming emotionally mature and wise. A lot of people can state perfectly why they believe what they believe as a Christian and then turn around and act like a jerk. We are missing something in the transformational process of becoming.
I like how our coach emphasized that a sermon is not necessarily to teach. Teaching is important but it is hierarchical and transactional. In this cohort, we are learning how to evoke an experience of the divine for the listeners—not trying to extract or put anything into the listeners as I stated earlier.
I was able to give an example of what my husband is able to do as a public school teacher. He asks for the kids who struggle to learn math, or are unmotivated to learn. Unmotivated might be the dominate reason over struggle these days. Explaining and teaching will get him nowhere in this scenario. He tells stories and gives them real-life examples of why learning math is important. He also develops a relationship, friendship, with the kids. Without connection, nothing really means anything. And because Jake is teaching lower level math, he is free from the constraint of measuring his success based on a test (I have so many objections to standardized testing, but that is another post). He is free to not have to extract or put anything into the students. His goal is to liberate them from the fear of learning math and to enjoy it while they are at it. This is how I feel about my faith. I know some of the meanest people we encounter are Christian. I have had to do some deep soul searching to ask myself why I am defining myself as Christian still. The answer: because I have experienced the divine. I felt the Spirit asking me to stay. She wants me, and I belong to her. I am getting over my fear of learning about God, at least the fear of getting God right, and I am having a lot of fun experiencing God instead.
The struggle refines us. Math is good for all of us. We do not grow without some frustrational learning. This is also true for becoming more resilient as a human being. Healing ❤️🩹 is hard work, but it is good work. It is frustrating work, and it brings deep joy. My original generic sentence at the beginning of our meeting yesterday said justice is for everyone. That was challenged, and my next go round said this: justice is when our deep pain turns into a deep belly laugh. Big difference.
I also shared the experience of doing a cartwheel 🤸♀️ after chapel last week. It brought me so much joy and it returned me to myself. I had gotten disconnected from myself. I was surprised at the response from the cohort. They loved it. I also told them that I am learning the difference between authoritarianism and confidence. I have been told by several groups of people that I apologize too much. I have a voice and then I apologize. The coach said that the next time she thinks about apologizing she is going to imagine me cartwheeling. 😂.
It is funny. I really thought when I was done with gymnastics I would never look back and talk about it again, but I never let go of my cartwheels. I do one every time a moment feels holy. It brings me joy, and now I see it brings others joy too. We do not have to let go of what is real. Love is real. Rev. Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles even mentioned the gift of cartwheeling to raise the level of the party in her sermon last week. What a gift to find the people who appreciate you and your gifts exactly as you are. Nothing is ever wasted. God sees and is with us. Redemption is always at hand.
Praise God for that.