Thursday, April 30, 2015

Channelling God

Most sermons I've heard are preceded by a short prayer from the speaker. That's right and proper to my mind. But there are some sermon-givers at church who seek to 'channel' the Holy Spirit, with a prayer to the effect that the Spirit speaks through them, or some such twaddle.

This morning's sermon giver, one of our ministers (they like to call themselves 'pastor' in our church, not a usage I particularly like, as pastoring is a function, not an office), did the 'channelling' prayer. His sermon was good in parts, and extra good in one part where he asked us how long it was since we had last put our minds to repenting of anything. Great! Remember, repenting is not 'feeling sorry', or even saying sorry. It is a decided reorientation of behaviour and motives to love others and not oneself in all its many aspects and forms. Good to be reminded.

The 'channelling' prayer is objectionable on a number of grounds. Prominent among them is the veiled manipulation of the congregation that they'd better listen extra good, because this might be God speaking here, and any problems in the sermon can be slated home to the Spirit and not style or substance authored by the speaker.

Another objection is that God doesn't fuel the words, but works within us, the hearers, to apply them to us in the circumstances, state and events in which we are immersed. Nothing to do with the particulars of the teacher who is speaking.

Further, God gives teachers a gift to teach: we have to exercise gifts, so that means work at them, sweat, if necessary. Our teacher this morning gave evidence of having done that, so no complaint on those grounds; but I still think it is not good to try and get us to think that these are God's words and not man's (as in this case). God largely has spoken through the authors of the Bible. I think he speaks to us subtly in a manner of applying to the soul what the ears hear. Nothing to do with the speaker.

A better prayer as the prelude to a sermon is the one that Robert Jones uses. He is an Anglican minister who served at two churches our family has attended (and currently at St James Turramurra). It goes like this:
Loving father your word is before us this day and we thank you for your revelation to us within your word. May your Holy Spirit be our teacher and guide; may he lead us into all truth and so apply that truth to our own hearts and minds that our lives are changed and we become more like the lord Jesus in whose name we pray.
Completely self-effacing, and joining the congregation in us all seeking the Spirit to be our guide. Nothing here about the teacher, as it should be.

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