Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hurtful Sermons

My own sermon is exceptionally particular to my own church this morning, and so I'm not going to post it, as I don't think it would mean much to anyone outside our congregation.

But I will post a bit of a musing about sermons in general.

Yesterday I heard a sermon that offended me on every possible level. 

A friend to whom I described it said that when she has to endure a sermon like that, she silently repeats the Jesus prayer right through it.

I responded that I had been so angry and hurt that I forgot all about Jesus.

An interesting standard.  If your sermon causes your listeners to forget about Jesus, it might be judged a colossal failure.

This morning I find that I'm wondering:  Do I ever do that?


  1. I suspect that we all -- preachers or not -- unintentionally inflict emotional/spiritual pain on each other from time to time. And in preaching, you have an audience that is not only captive but open (hopefully) in ways that will let them be present to God, which I think makes us all somewhat more vulnerable to being hurt.

    Reading this made me thinking a bit about pain and my physical therapist's suggestions about its role and its assessment. Her conversations about pain hinge on two questions: how distracting is it and what is it preventing you from doing. If all I can think about is how much my ankle hurts, and if my body recoils from putting that foot on the floor, my recovery is hindered. So, too, when the sermon leaves us so awash in pain we can think of nothing else, when we recoil from returning...

    It occurs to me that we should pray for those preaching....

  2. Mmmm, that Michelle is so smart.

    I think the fact that you ask that last question...means you are far less likely to.

  3. I preached a sermon the end of August that was a reflection on my childhood experience of being raised in the Mormon Church - what I loved about it and what I ultimately found challenging - due to some of the very narrow understandings of who is welcome into heaven and some of the weirder mystical teachings of the church. I did allude to how that kind of thinking might influence how one saw the world and made decisions from that point of view. I had a couple of people in the church leave because if that sermon - they found it offensive and inappropriate. So, not hurtful per se but close to it. On the other hand others found it to be benign or helpful. Curiously enough I have preached other sermons like it on my childhood in the Mormon Church and in those non-election stress time there were no comments at all.

    anyway, that is pretty intense to hear a sermon that makes you feel as you did!

    1. I remember that sermon of yours.

      The thing is, the closer we come to preaching out of our deepest experiences and heart, the more likely we may be to offend someone. (NB: the preacher in question was NOT speaking out of experience and he did not seem to me to be speaking from the heart, either. Maybe that was part of the problem -- a very intellectual approach and then an attempt at humor with respect to things that are experienced deeply by many people.) And I don't know that that's a bad thing at all.


  4. I'm sorry that this happened to you, but I love the dialogue that it created. Your honesty is refreshing, and the exchange here made me smile. But I am sorry it was such an awful experience for you.