What I’m Doing to Kindle My Hope That God is Making All Things New: Will You Join Me?

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The [Awkward] Task of Prophetic Imagination

The task of prophetic imagination and ministry is to bring to public expression those very hopes and yearnings that have been denied so long and suppressed so deeply that we no longer know they are there. Hope…is an absurdity too embarrassing to speak about, for it flies in the face of all those claims we have been told are facts. – Walter Brueggemann, Prophetic Imagination

We’re pretty extraverted about our lamenting.
And pretty introverted about our dancing.

I’m kinda over that.
And I’m doing something about it.

I’ve written here before about God’s call to “dance for the healing to come.” The call grew from Walter Brueggemann’s Prophetic Imagination, reminding me that our call is both to lament for what is broken and to dance for how God is healing it. We too often do one or the other. The trickier (and more faithful) thing is to do both.

Our call is both to lament for what is broken and to dance for how God is healing it. We too often do one or the other. The trickier (and more faithful) thing is to do both. @uccmandy Click To Tweet

That call to dance for the healing to come I took seriously (and literally) and, as awkward as it was, chose to dance for the healing to come, even when my heart was breaking for all that isn’t healed. But I’ve done it by myself in my living room in my socks. It’s been powerful and has healed my heart. But it’s been just me.

I’m feeling called to share it.
And I’m longing to see how others keep alive their hope that God is making all things new.

I’m finding inspiration in these words of Thomas Merton:

For the world and time are the dance of the Lord in emptiness. The silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast. The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life, the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not. Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.

All Things New – An Invitation and Opportunity

So I’m planning “All Things New Fest”—one day this summer that might just feel a little like a wedding feast. A day to cast our awful solemnity to the winds—just for a day—and join in the general dance. Not a day to numb the pain but a day, in the midst of the pain of this broken world, to choose to trust that brokenness is not the whole story. And a day to keep our hope alive so that we ourselves can do the hard work of joining God in his project to make all things new.

What if you had an “All Things New Fest” in your city?

We can’t keep our joy to ourselves!

Here are a few ideas to stoke your imagination:

  • Find a place in nature—a friend’s farm? A big backyard? A public park?
  • Contact some local friends who are preachers and poets, singers and dancers, dreamers and story-tellers, painters and jugglers. Ask them:

 What helps you believe God is making all things new? Will you come and share it? (Will you do it for the love of it—we don’t have a budget.)
  • We’re not thinking concert or conference. Think more “old time camp meeting.”
  • What if it ended with a barn dance? Or songs around a campfire?
  • Invite everyone who comes to bring a picnic (with enough to share) and to be willing to share their own hope (give away herbs they grow? teach their hula hooping skills?)
  • How could communion be incorporated into the picnic?
  • Welcome folks with a big, blank board with the prompt “What helps you believe God is making all things new?” to invite those who come to share in words.
  • Put some of these bible passages around the place:
    • “Behold, I make all things new!” Revelation 21:5 
    • “Though outwardly we are wasting away Yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16 
    • “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19
  • As much as possible, set aside the way of empire (performance, perfectionism, and productivity): Try not to charge anyone for anything. Try not to worry about “big names.” Try not to promote anything or sell anything. Don’t worry about making everything look professional.
  • Keep the planning simple. Last week I reached out to around 15 people and said “Let’s plan to meet for three 90 minute meetings over the next 3 months and whatever we come up with during those meetings is what the event will be.” We’re meeting next week. I can’t wait to see what happens!
  • As our planning unfolds, I’m happy to share materials to help make it easier for you. Connect with me here: All Things New Fest and let’s share what the Spirit is stirring!
What if you held an 'All Things New Fest' in your neighborhood or city, inviting others, in the midst of their pain, to kindle hope and spread joy? @uccmandy Click To Tweet
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15 responses to ““God Used You to Destroy my World Today”: The Sign of a Good Sermon?

  1. Since I've been interim pastoring here in the great white tundra of central NY, I've been battling the "I really enjoyed your sermon." or "Great sermon." It's obviously nice and all, but it seems to play into the performance side of things, even in a conservative Anglican church. I try and push back a little by saying, "We'll see what happens." This is somewhat of a reduced and paraphrased version of Marva Dawn's story in Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down where the preacher gets the same praise from the congregation. He says something similar in order to push them into action, not merely attending a show where the audience simply watches.I know in my neck of the woods this is a much needed difference. So besides expository preaching, what would say is the best way to preach? (I won't be attending the National Gathering, but would love to hear more.)

  2. To say to me "I loved your sermon" is indeed often the same thing as saying to me, "Thank you, for not challenging my entrenched beliefs too much, and for not forcing me to learn anything too new or difficult."Granted, it's not what people intend to communicate…esp. for a young pastor like me, who often preaches for older populations that wish to sincerely "bless" me (and as it turns out, I'm a sucker for compliments.)
    But after I'm done feeling really good about myself, and after having left the church that day, I admittedly begin to wonder if people really heard the piercing word of God.
    Thanks for the post.

  3. I really enjoyed your post today, Dave…nice job. 🙂 And if I've ever told you what a great sermon you preached please forgive me. 🙂
    Seriously, though, this is a good word. The comment by George, "that is something I need to work on" is spot on. This thinking allows us to dictate when and where God will work in our lives and enables us to pretend we are in control and can keep God in a little box. Thankfully, since we've been at LOV, God has continually been destroying "my world" and awakening me to kingdom life, through the liturgy, sermons, Missional Order, Triad, etc.

  4. I have tried to avoid the stand at the door and get the "nice sermons" but it hasn't worked. I agree that a good response to "good sermon" is "that remains to be seen". In other words, if I am to judge the effectiveness of my sermons it's not on what people feel, but are lives changed?While occasionally I might like to hear that I destroyed someone's world (in your sense of the words) I would also like to hear "thanks for smashing my idols and helping me remember that there is no God but God" or "when I came today, my world had been destroyed but now I know where to find the strength" or "I really appreciated your brilliant explanation of the Granville Sharp rule" (OK – that's one I NEVER hope to hear)

  5. Typically, when I say to someone "I enjoyed your sermon" or something like it, I mean "God used it to speak to my heart". I often add that clarification knowing that performance is the thought lurking in the background. So, on the one hand, I understand the hesitation or disappointment a preacher may have in hearing those words, but on the other hand, it really depends on what is meant by "I enjoyed your sermon." I don't think that it always–for everyone–means, "that was a good performance, and by the way, thanks for making the last 30 minutes enjoyable."

  6. Every functioning member of the Body can speak and prophesy. This is edifying to the Body. A meeting of worship that does not allow time for the members to prophesy focuses uniquely on the sermon, which should be not a sermon, but a message, a gospel, a good news, and a prophesying (forth telling the truth of God).

  7. Good thoughts. I wonder, though, if the teaching/preaching dichotomy is completely helpful. I am not sure it has to be seen as one over and against the other. Couldn't expository teaching in the dialogical context of genuine community produce the "destroyed world" you speak of?
    I think I am sensitive to this because early in pastoring our community- made up largely of 20 something singles- I realized that there were two significant dynamics at play: 1) Many people, even those who came from Christian homes, were deeply Biblically illiterate; and 2) those "sermons" that most moved them to experience "destroyed world" were often just that- experiences. It did not often produce any change beyond the "hit" of emotional experience.

    Thanks again.

    1. Great point, Jamie. There is room for both. So many people lack pieces of the puzzle (Biblical literacy, not to mention basic education) that teaching is absolutely necessary. Also, I've noticed that change rarely comes from an experience of a sermon or an "anointed" meeting. "Destroying worlds" is a long and tedious process.

  8. I think this is what I recognize as transformational preaching (which can be done in a lot of different style-categories, including expository, though some do seem more conducive than others, and a transformational expository sermon just plain takes a lot of work). It's something I value most highly, but I've learned that it needs to go hand in hand with strong pastoral care insight and sensitivity and a whole congregation, leaders in particular, who affirm, support, and release the transformation called forth in individuals lives. It's amazing how many times, however unintentionally, the opposite is what happens.

  9. I very much look forward to hearing more at the conference. Meantime, as per teaching/preaching distinctions, I found this little blurb from Packer (via iMonk) insightful:
    "…somehow or other, opportunities must be given for folk in and just outside the churches to examine Christian essentials, because there are so many for whom this is a prime need. Preaching often does not help them, for preaching ordinarily assumes in both speaker and hearers confident certainty about the fundamentals of the faith, and where this is lacking, sermons are felt to be remote and even irritating because of what appear as their unexamined assumptions. But the proper place for examining, challenging, and testing the intellectual ABCs of Christianity is not the pulpit, but rather the systematic instruction given in catechetical teaching—at least, so Christian history suggests."

  10. Enjoyed reading this. Some of us welcome, are made glad by, and deeply delight in being shaken a little (or a lot) and in the disequilibrium that comes from being drawn nearer to God; to our own needs for change, healing, repentance; and to God’s transformation of us, in us–however that comes, whether from the preaching or teaching, the music or the prayers, the silences, the seasons, the rustlings of humans hearing the words of God. Do most people mean the lighterweight or annoying interpretations taken of “Enjoyed the sermon”? Why not assume the best and that God is doing God’s work in each hearer, in God’s own time and ways that are not our own? Is “Thank you” an OK or better thing to say to the minister after the service? Do we really want everyone to be constantly careful about words and taking or giving offense? I don’t go to church to have my world destroyed but to worship, share in worship, grow in grace and truth. Thanks for the thoughts and stimulating others’.

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