Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Claiming (for the first time) religious language

I preached a good sermon Sunday. (I'm endearingly modest, as you can tell.)

The subject was evangelism and during the course of the sermon, I used these words:
  • Evangelism
  • Holy Spirit
  • Sin
  • Redemption
  • Testimonial
  • God
  • Faith
  • Prayer
  • Revelation
People responded well. Really well. The kind of "really well" that scares you because, you know, people might start having expectations of you. Most gratifying -- the Born-Again-Atheist who doesn't even want the worship committee to be called a "worship" committee ... said it was the best sermon she'd ever heard.

Yikes. And yay.

There's been a lot of talk over the last few years about reclaiming a language of reverence. But you know, after chatting with some other UUs who are also cradle UUs, as I am, I realized that "reclaiming," for most of us, isn't it at all.

These words are, to us, new words.

I don't mean we'd never heard the words, I just mean that they were never on our radar.

It's like this: I'm not a sports fan. Now, I've heard the terms line of scrimmage, shortstop, top of the key, but I don't really know what they mean, and frankly, don't care.

But if I really got into football, I'd learn about the line of scrimmage. And I'd have an appreciation for it. I wouldn't have a chip on my shoulder about it -- I was never tackled on the line of scrimmage as a Little Leaguer -- it would be something new, and interesting. And I might find great value in it.

Can we get off the sports metaphor? Because I'm kinda at the end of being able to fake it.

Anyway, for some of us, we don't bring in baggage attached to those terms. It's not about finding a new definition for the terms. It's about getting in and exploring them for maybe the first time. It's eye-opening. And heartening. "You mean sin means 'missing the mark'? Well, heck, I can relate to that!"

I think that for others, who did grow up with the words, there is a power in the reclaiming. And in saying, Hey, I'm not redefining a Christian term, I'm using a word that did not originally mean what they say it means.

Like worship.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest a book...if you haven't already read it...Its fiction but it explains the concept of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in terms that if your like me you've asked questions about what is the relationship between the three are they one entity or are they three separate entities....It will make you cry and it will make you cheer...even if your not a "believer" its a great book! It's called "The Shack" by William Young. Read it and I beleive it would make a good topic of conversation on your blog. :)
But of course that is just my opinion.

Your cousin

Red Sphynx said...

Will there be an audio file?

I'd appreciate a post from you explaining how you made god-talk and Christian terms palatable to a largely humanist audience.

Earthbound Spirit said...

I'm not cradle UU, my religious background is complicated but did include some time in a fundamentalist Christian church. I am reclaiming these words of power, too. Especially prayer & faith.

Where I am now, people are used to the regular minister, who uses religious language and chooses readings from a variety of scriptures each week. Where I've been, one could expect to be challenged on language and have to preach on it.

One colleague preached on what she called "wounded words," another recently did a take-off on George Carlin with the "Seven Words You Can't Say in this Church."

I also would love to hear your sermon.

Robin Edgar said...

Well done LE.

"Can we get off the sports metaphor? Because I'm kinda at the end of being able to fake it."

That latter sentence is probably one that someone in ministry might want to think twice about saying publicly, or even privately. . . ;-)

luke1720 said...

was gonna leave a comment but it started running kinda long.

I think another word could be added to your list.


fausto said...

If there are enough seminarians out there like, you, I have hope for the future of the denomination.

Lizard Eater said...

@Fausto -- yours was one of the first UU blogs I began reading, and you've introduced me to many theological ideas over the years. So that's a compliment with much weight in my book, and I thank you.