Sunday, April 7, 2013

Church of the Locked Door: A [Mainline Protestant] Congregation

A few years ago someone preached a sermon on 2 Easter that didn't focus on doubt. I don't remember what he did preach on, maybe he did talk about doubt, but it's not the part of the sermon that's stuck with me. Rather, what stuck with me was his poking fun at his denomination in a few ways. He said that the disciples' gathering on Easter night could have been a "new" congregation in his ecclesiastical body. First, the name: [Generic Church Word Name]: A [Name of Denomination] Congregation. Second, what they're doing: hiding out for fear of authorities, not believing the Good News of Resurrection they've been told and that Jesus had foretold.

While sermons on doubt are good to hear from time to time, I think every year is too time to time enough. I'm seeing a lot on Facebook about doubt sermons. Facebook is a snippet and not representative, I know. While preaching about doubt where is the preaching about resurrection? How the preacher has experienced resurrection in the midst of doubt.

Today's sermon at the parish where I serve talked about how so many professional resources focus on crucifixion of the Church (i.e. its death) and not on resurrection. There's new life, and declines are slowly turning around certainly. Even so, there are some fearing that it won't happen and doubting that we can have new life at the parish, denominational, or religious level. The sermon continued with stories of new life from around the country and an emphasis on the power of the Spirit to stir new life.

I, however, was hung up on the first part of today's gospel text. The Church of the Locked door. I think I was stuck there because last week I went to the Episcopal Communicators conference and I had an amazing time. I had no idea that I'd be with such a group of people committed to church communication and Good News (not the right wing UMC group, either) communication. While Mary, Simon, and John have been to the tomb and Mary has spoken with the Risen Christ, the fledgling church doesn't believe the Good News.

They haven't had an experience of resurrection that they're dying to tell other people. They're scared for their lives and Jesus shows up. They believe and then Thomas doesn't until he does as well. Being with the Episcopal Communicators raised the importance for me of communicators helping others tell their stories. We, are not living in fear of authorities, and I hope that we have experiences of resurrection to tell other people.

My biggest take away from the conference was setting some goals for the Diocese of California's communications, but one of them is going to be about teaching people to tell their story — and to use language about how Jesus dying and rising again means something to them and how they experience resurrection regularly. If they don't I want to help them listen for it to live it.

What experiences do you have of resurrection? Who do you tell about it and how? Preachers from today, how did resurrection fit in to your sermons on doubt or anything else today? Christ is risen! Tell me about it.

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