Monday, July 11, 2005

Hard of hearing??

Any of you who've ever preached will be familiar with the disconcerting transformation that can occurr as your words leave your mouth and make their way to the ears of your listeners. The throwaway line that felt as if it was only there for good measure turns out to be the crux of your message for one , and of course, the illustration, particularly if it aspires to be humerous, will be remembered long after the point of the sermon is lost. Sometimes this metamorphosis is a wonderful thing, as people find words helpful beyond your wildest hopes, but occasionally...yes..well...
I do hope that not too many others will have shared my experience of yesterday morning. Realising that I'd nothing inspired to say about the parable of the sower, and was terrified of attempting Romans 8 (Paul often has that effect on me ;-) ) I abandoned the Lectionary in favour of a response to the London bombs.
Much of what I said was derived from the insights of other bloggers, and from on-line discussions which had shaped my own journey to make sense of the horror.
The primary school cross hung from the front of the pulpit, where everyone would see it as they waited to go up for Communion...and by the time I'd finished writing I was sure that I could stand by every word, and that God was in the message.
It was one of those occasions when God seemed very close as I spoke and in the profound silence that followed I knew that it had been "right" for that day and those people.
Except for one.
After the vestry prayer at the end of the Eucharist, I was accosted by someone whose experience had been very different. In my assertion of our common humanity with the terrorists and in my comparison of devotion with fanaticism (which others found entirely helpful, Dr Moose, never fear) she had somehow heard me justify the unjustifiable. Despite my actually having said "Nothing justifies this appalling violence" she'd heard the reverse....and to claim that the terrorists were anything other than totally inhuman clearly outraged her.
Dialogue proved impossible then; truth to tell, it's been hard with her for a while now, so I guess my only course is to pray that we may both truly hear each other. I'm sure there was something about that in the Lancelot Andrewes prayer...


Songbird said...

Our only hope is to find our common humanity. You are doing good work, Kathryn.

Paul said...

Kathryn, if we have no common humanity then why do we believe God became human. It is always sad when we are faced with people who don't seem to have heard a word we said! I was listening to two members of my church talking over coffee, actually speaking about the events of WW II. They both said they couldn't forgive. I had said in my sermon "I know I can apply the parable to myself. There are bits of me that are impervious to the word of God. The bits that so don’t want to hear I probably don’t even realise that the word bounces off without making contact at all. Parts of my life that, at the moment, God’s word stands little chance of taking root in, let alone growing and bearing fruit and yielding even tenfold, let alone a hundredfold." But I ended: "Throughout scripture an image used for God’s house, God’s children, the body of Christ is that of a vine. If you’ve ever seen a vineyard you will know that vines grow on rocky, stony ground, often no good for much else. It is in the rocky ground of our lives that God seeks to plant and nurture his vine so that it may bear fruit that will last." We are called to keep speaking words of God and living lives that try and point to God, that's all we can do. Peace and Blessings to you and congratualtions on your ordination last Saturday. I was ordained priest on St. Thomas' Day 1994.

Tony said...

I learned this in my second post, where there was a dear slightly deaf lady in the congregation (who helped me learn most of what I now know about being audible in church). She often used to say during the week, "It's like what you said in your sermon on Sunday ..." and then come out with something I was sure I hadn't said at all, and which was usually much better than most of what I had said.

But as for your selectively deaf lady, I suspect this is incurable, except by grace. I advise loving her and praying for her till she gives in and does actually hear what you are saying.