Pastoral Ponderings August 2014

Dear God,

     I have a lot of thoughts when I’m in front of people.  Some of them are just observations that are pretty surface-level.  Things like, “Oh, so-and-so is sitting somewhere new.”, “So-and-so is dressed pretty sharp today”,  “Where’s so-and-so today?”,  “Remember to call so-and-so.”

     Others are much deeper, “So-and-so looks sad/tired.”,  “I know so-and-so has been struggling lately, so don’t forget to call or drop a note.”, “It looks like the scripture and homily are really connecting with so-and-so.  I should ask them about it.”

     As you can see, there are a lot of so-and-so’s in our church, but as I think of it I don’t know that I’ve ever come up with an etiology or meaning for “so-and-so”.  However, from observing my mother I learned it could be used in two ways.  She would either laugh and call you a so-and-so, or she’d use the word “that” in front of it…which led to a different meaning.  I can also tell you, Lord, that we were raised with another saying which was “such-and-such”.  I love Wisconsin sayings!

     People tend to like the style of speaking which I’ve settled in to.  I try to keep it more conversational and less preachy, which is why I refer to my “sermon” as a homily in the bulletin.  Still, I use the term, “my sermon” in the same manner as we say “Kleenex” for facial tissue, or a “Coke” for nearly any cola product.  The words carry a shared, understood meaning.  If I said, “Please hand me a Puffs” it would sound funny compared to “Hand me a Kleenex.” 

     My preaching style is at once liberating and dangerous.  It’s liberating because I can change course mid-stride if I see something is clicking or not-clicking with people.  Also, I can change topics at the last minute.  Sometimes I feel your Spirit move me in different directions than I had anticipated, and sometimes simple interactions with people change the course of my homily.  If I wrote my sermons it would be hard to get away from what’s written, even if your Spirit was speaking to me.

     However, my preaching style is also dangerous.  It’s dangerous because my mind can wander and lose track of where I’m going.  Sometimes it’s because I make note of so-and-so or think of such-and-such and then get distracted.  My style can be dangerous because at times I make off-the-cuff comments which are odd, meaningless, or even appear callous.  It can be dangerous because at times I rely too much on my extemporaneous style and don’t have the outline/direction firmly planted in my head.  It’s a style of speaking that is prone to slips of the tongue, off-hand comments, or getting lost. 

     Why do I say all of this?  Because I have experienced you reaching out to me in different styles.  It seems as if sometimes you preach to me a clear message and at other times talk to me.  I feel there are times when I hear your voice loud and clear when you say, ”Don’t do that, dummy…I mean, Danny!”   Those are the formal sermons you try to lead me with.

     Other times I feel as if you are simply talking with me.  It’s the style of reaching out to me that comes from a gentle loving conversation: moving my heart and soul to do something different without preaching to me.  I’ve never liked the image of “I’ll have a talk with ‘the Big Guy’ later.”  However, I have always liked the image of you speaking to me in quiet, gentle ways.  The sermons are what I need when I’m really screwing up…the conversation are what I need when I need course corrections and challenges to what I’m doing/saying.

     The main thing is that you speak to me in ways I can understand.  In Wisconsin we talked in words everyone understood.  My parents played Sheepshead.  Weddings include “cannibal sandwiches” and wedding nights often included a Shivaree.  We drank from bubblers, put jimmies on cookies, and we knew a lot of so-and-so’s who were doing such-and-such.  We were always told to use our blinkers (directional signals).  We never “went to” my Aunt and Uncle’s…we would “go by” their place.  It wasn’t unusual for us to ask for a hand by saying, “Come here real quick once.”  Like I said, I love being from Wisconsin.

     Like I said…you speak to us in words and styles we can understand, and I really appreciate that.  Thank you for not giving up on me, and thanks, as always, for listening. 

                                                                                                                        Dan