Sunday, August 7, 2005
Flirting with Emergent, part IV (final part).
Before Philocrites returns to take his rightful place at the helm, I wanted to finish my series on "Flirting with Emergent." In late June / early July I attended Jacob's Well, a local Emergent Church, for three consecutive Sundays. Then I decided to blog about the experience of being a "mystery worshipper" and also ask some questions about the "soul" of Emergent and what UUism might learn from it.
I realize that in the previous entries, I've said a lot about the form and style of Jacob's Well, but not a lot about the content. So I want to briefly describe each of the three sermons I heard there.
The first sermon was on the subject of generosity. It was probably the most listenable stewardship sermon I've ever heard. It was not a sermon specifically about how the church needs your money. In fact, the preacher even said at one point (without a hint of suggesting otherwise) that the church was doing so well financially that it didn't need the financial assistance of anyone who gave out of any feeling other than a love of God. The sermon was based on 2 Corinthians 8 and reflected the Pauline theology of emphasizing the motivations and attitudes underlying actions. All in all, it was a challenging sermon that left space for me to ponder my own relationship with generosity. Rating: Excellent.
The second service I attended featured a guest preacher. It was horrible. The "sermon" was testimony from a person who had been living with addiction and self-destructiveness but was now saved. The theology was simplistic and immature. A section in the middle about how the just-converted young man zealously attempted to "save" his family of origin was terribly sad and angering and agonizing. I wish I hadn't gone to church. Rating: Atrocious.
The third sermon was on the subject of marriage. The sermon began with a dimming of the lights and a playing of the marriage scene from "The Princess Bride." I have mixed feelings on this sermon. On one hand, the sermon was absolutely targeted to the demographic of 20-something singles, young couples thinking about marriage, or recently married folks figuring it out. How amazing to have my generation spoken to! The basic message was that marriage is one context for living a holy life, not an end in itself. The preacher took issue with evangelical Christianity for making an idolatry out of marriage. He spared liberal churches from any criticism. In this sermon he had very little to say about divorce, except for a part about marriage being a covenant rather than a contract. Not sure what I thought of this. I found this sermon wanting in that he never touched (not even indirectly) on same-sex marriage, used heterosexist terminology, and was fairly mono-cultural. Rating: Pretty good.
To conclude this whole Emergent-review, I believe that an Emergent UU Church aimed at Young Adults would be successful. I think the key to this would be an engagement with the lived realities of young people, expressed in a way that is culturally intelligent without being culturally beholden. Another key would be the using of stories to create a powerful metaphorical frame for reflecting upon life. There was little in the preacher's sermons that I would have to change if I wanted to preach the message in a UU context.
Copyright © 2005 by Thom Belote | Posted 7 August 2005 at 6:22 PM