Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Planning Sermons

I took out my sermon "plot" today and see many big holes, otherwise known as April and May. Yikes.

So have at it, PeaceBangers. Weigh in. What kind of sermons would you like to hear preached? And what readings and hymns would go with that sermon? What sermons have you preached lately that were particularly meaningful for you?

I'm preaching on a series on "spiritual stumbling blocks" this winter, including the Fool archetype, jealousy (Cain and Abel, among others) and the problem of not being judgmental enough (ie, discerning).

I want to preach two sermons on on madness, enchantment, religion and psychology (using scenes from "Equus", and the young adult novel "Is That You, Miss Blue?"). And the Mother's Day's sermon may take a look at mothers in prison, a growing phenomenon in our country today.
I will preach about Tookie Williams and the death penalty, and the power of faithful outrage and indignation for Martin Luther King Sunday.

I'm sure that the trip to Spain will inform some nascent sermon ideas on art as an unintentional form of social protest ("Guernica") and on heaven and hell ("The Garden of Earthly Delights"). I'd like to learn more about the brief era in Spain when Christians, Jews and Muslims co-existed peacefully together, as I'm sure there's a sermon in there.

Waitstill and Martha Sharp, Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem, will no doubt be the subject of our Flower Communion Sunday, which I will try to coordinate with Yom Hashoah.

And the rest is... grace, the Holy Spirit and the Muse.


Blogger PhantomDirector said...

PB: I have always thought that UU clergy have not come to grips with the issues of "ontological individualism" lodged against our movement by Bellah at GA in Rochester 06-27-1998. If you google Robert Bellah you will come up with his website--click on Lectures and you will see it. Preaching on that might be beneficial--as a Public Theologian!

And ala Spain--don't forget the deep mysteries of Unamuno.

Cheerfully, PDir.

Blogger Jaume said...

Well, there was a time (over 700 years) that Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived together in Spain, but "peacefully" is not the best word to describe that coexistence. However, there is a sort of myth around that medieval coexistence, and in that sense it can be good stuff for a sermon, where not much theological depth or historical accuracy is expected anyway... (tongue-in-cheek comment after the recent discussions about theology and preaching)

Blogger Chalicechick said...

Do sociopaths have souls? If yes, are they broken souls?

That one has troubled me for years.


Blogger UUEnforcer said...

I'm doing a sermon series based on the Book Loosing Moses on the freeway, the 10 commandments in the US. There's at least 11 sermons, the first one is on the commandments the rest on each of the laws.

Blogger fausto said...

I'd like to see someone tackle a unified theory of theism and humanism. Just because we cannot see or touch "God" and instead hypothetically project onto "Him" our most precious human values and characteristics in a perfected and idealized form, and then worship our idealized apprehension, doesn't necessarily make it idolatry.

Likewise, after all the creative reenvisioning of God lately, incuding impersonal and feminine idealizations, I'd like to see a feminist UU defend rather than disparage some of the traditional masculine God-images and God-language bequeathed to us by tradition. Maybe on Father's Day. If there is a God "He" probably has a lot in common with your Uncle Marv. Mary Daly is so 1970's. (Yes, I agree, if there is a God "He" probably has no gender, but still.)

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Fausto, you've reminded me that I am uncomfortable with the fact that we always do a Mother's Day thing but never Father's Day, as that is traditionally our RE Sunday. Father's get a shout-out at the chalice lighting; not cool.

Maybe I'll do something with PARENTS in prison... although right now that hardly sings.

As you may have probably guessed, I do a lot of remembering, affirming and defending of the old Father God concept, although not necessarily from the pulpit and that might be a good idea.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Jaume, I'll look forward to talking about this and other things over tapas in Barcelona in a few weeks!!

Blogger Adam Tierney-Eliot said...

Hey All,

I too, would be curious to hear what PB has to say about sociopaths and their souls.

Lately I have been interested in how religious people confront the mysteries of faith in a scientific age. Not so much in the New Age sense but in the "Wow! I never thought of that!" sense. This all started with a sermon on evolution and 19th century science...

Incidentally, I always preach about parenting on Father's Day. The text has often been Luke 1 and that story about poor old Zechariah and Elizabeth. The only problem is that (since I am a father) it ends up sounding a lot like my Mother's Day sermon. Any mom's out there looking for a gig?

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Here's a challenge for you, Adam: how about asking an intentionally child-free woman to give your Mother's Day sermon? (hint, hint, pulpit exchange)

And I'm taking the bait. I'm going to preach on March 5th on BTK, sins, secrets, the soul and Ash Wednesday. Don't have a clear sense yet of what I'll do, but I want to address the question of "What would I do if I were BTK's pastor?"

Blogger fausto said...

Depends how much you knew about him, I guess. His real-life pastor allowed him to serve as president of the congregation.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

I personally think, and I mean it, that BTK should have his head held underwater until he drowns. He is an evil being, and shouldn't be given the opportunity to redeem his life. Not having sent all those souls out of their bodies in the manner that he did. No way nohow.
ANYWAY, I was utterly distressed for his pastor, and got very teary when the man said, "They don't teach you how to deal with this in seminary."
Right. Because seminary doesn't really allow for the possibility of ontological evil in the parish.

Blogger jfield said...

If you want more stories about prisoners with chidlren, I would strongly recommend Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. http://www.prisonerswithchildren.org/

Dorsey Nunn is an amazing speaker on the topic.

Blogger res publica said...

Because seminary doesn't really allow for the possibility of ontological evil in the parish. Neither does Christianity, at least in the Augustinian tradition...in the parish, or anywhere else. To say that evil is real is trivial, but to talk about ontological evil is something else altogether. Perhaps a sermon in itself.

On the subject of BTK: really "more" evil than "most" evil, or just more horrifying to us? MORE evil than your average sexually abusive dad who gets his minor daughter pregnant? In degree or kind? More evil than the common-as-dirt parent who beats her/his children? Why? And if not, should we drown all child abusers? That might feel good, but you're starting to talk about some serious numbers of dead people. What about people who murder and who are genuinely repentant? Are they "less" evil than a serial killer who, for all we know, is incapable of repentance?

I not carrying some torch for the redeemability of serial killers, but it might be challenging to think (or preach) about what we really mean when we make distinctions between evils, and what that says about our understanding of evil. How bad do you have to be to be an irredeemably evil person, who gets the water treatment?

Blogger birthingjourney said...

Hi PB: Thanks for your post. I have a dear friend, also a midwife, who spent 2 years in prison. She too, is a mother. Fortunately though her children were grown when she went. In her time, she witnessed and befriended so many women with children in prison. She wrote about it extensively in letters. The majority of women there were there for drug related offenses and had young children.

I was there visiting her once. In the room resembling a school cafeteria with guards at every door and window were several other prisoners with visitors. Next to us was a woman with three very young children and who I presumed was her husband. They left earlier than I did. The tears were flowing, the children were crying, "no mommy, we don't want to go. no mommy, please don't have us go. come home!" It was heartbreaking. The family left, my friend subtly smiled at her. She was taken back to her cell by a guard. (Know that each time these women have a visitor they are strip searched before and after with every orifice examined and then washed off.) My friend and I watched her go.

I asked, "what is her story?" My friend tells me, "well remember her daughter, the little girl that didn't want to leave?" "She caught her husband raping her." I say, "and..." "well, she attacked him and tried to kill him." "The man with the children is her brother who is caring for them now." I was perplexed. Why would she be in here? certainly it was self defense. My heart sank.

There's justice for you.

I would be happy to put you in contact with my friend if you are interested. Feel free to email me at cecily@birthingjourney.com.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Res, good questions and starting points for sermonic reflection. For me, the issue comes down to the inexplicable nature of sadism. It's sadists I want to drown. The average despicable criminal doesn't arouse the same kind of annhilation urges in me that a BTK does. Dare I call it intuition?
Again, I wouldn't want a criminal justice system based on mine, or anyone else's, intuition, but my visceral reaction to BTK is one of such creeping horror that I feel I'm in the presence of something unique.

I have encountered an evil spirit in the dreamworld, and although those experiences have been terrifying, I am grateful to them for their edifying function: i.e., when I encounter the same malevolence in the waking world, my inner bell rings and says, "this is the same thing."

Irrational, crazy, but I trust it.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Hi Cecily,
Thanks for sharing your story. Very depressing and not at all unusual, I suspect.

Blogger Adam Tierney-Eliot said...

Hey PB, I'll keep you on the list...


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