Preachers, as a rule, shouldn't reveal what they're thinking about when preaching, except, of course, to claim that the Holy Spirit guides their words, thoughts and intentions, and otherwise their very souls are transparent vessels of grace and wisdom from on high. Yeee upp.
But, in this case, I want to share what I have always thought about: Some of the deep programming that runs in the background while the sermon app is playing.
That is, I've always been concerned with the two most important people in my congregation, or whoever has the fortitude to listen to me talk uninterrupted for ten or more minutes. Usually more. And now, the big reveal, who those two people are:
It's the two in the back, though you might think, seeing as preachers LOVE to hear themselves talk (we do, I don't deny it) it could be the front two. But no, it's my kids, Sam and Abby.
They are, for me, the two most important people in my congregation. This isn't favoratism, I don't think. It comes from something baser, something darker: Fear. Plain old fear.
Well, not 'plain old' fear, I guess, but rather 'professional anxiety' - that's better. Because my profession is helping people connect with God, through a specific set of traditions and frameworks known as the Lutheran Confessions.
Now, I'm not dead set that my kids should be Evangelical Lutherans cradle to grave. Should they live in an area without a good Lutheran church, for instance, I'm perfectly fine with them finding a solid grace-filled company of believers, no matter what denomination. (I DO have reservations, but I'm not a real stickler about it).
What I earnestly desire is that my children know Jesus, the REAL Jesus, the one hundred percent human Jesus, one hundred percent divine Jesus, and further, that they follow this Jesus in the midst of a local community of believers. In old language, when they're grown, I want their butts in church on Sunday mornings, keeping all my grandkids settled, wherever they may be.
I mean, what preacher doesn't want that? It's a desire WAY WAY down deep inside us pastor folk, and I admit that I am fearful of the future. Part pride, part love, part I don't know what. But there it is. And THAT's why I have always thought of my kids when I work on preparing sermons or messages or homilies or whatever you call that moment when you get up and try to speak for God.
Every message I prepare has those kids front and center. There's always other considerations, and other issues to broaden the message, but I always preach it to THEM, because I taught them (I think) how to sniff out BS, to nurture a healthy skepticism, and not believe everything a preacher tells them. I want ALL of us to have such skills, but I have labored to instill it in my kids. I haven't done that for anybody else. But I wonder if that healthy mindset might get in the way of knowing Jesus.
Because, no matter how you look at the world, knowing Jesus is a leap of faith. It's NOT easy to believe. Jesus lived a long time ago in a far off place, and although he's fascinating on a rather epic scale (to me and countless others), he's weird in a lot of ways that might turn young people off. Just saying!
So I want to proclaim a real Jesus living in a real community: One that transcends Jesus' ancient original setting but still exudes his original charm, beauty and tsedaqah. Yeah, that last means 'justice', 'fairness' and 'righteousness'. Tsedaqah is such a cool word Sam actually has a big tatoo on his arm that I drew in Hebrew letters for him - and it's DOES say Tsedaqah, not 'matzoh' or some dumb thing.
Anyhow, they're good kids, if you're asking. They seem to love Jesus in their way, better than I did at their age, that's for certain. They love justice, and mercy, and I'm willing to wager in the days ahead they'll keep walking humbly with God. Maybe not exaclty like the way I envision, but still. So now you know. That's what I'm thinking about. A Jesus my kids will embrace - a Jesus not easy to follow, but worth following regardless. It's not a Jesus of personal preference - I find this particular Jesus the most authentic, scriptural and holy image of Christ available. I can't fool these kids, after all - this Jesus HAS to be real! So that's who I always try to talk about. For my kids, but for y'all as well. They can share, after all.