I have a confession to make: I can’t pay attention to sermons. It’s a weird thing with me, similar to my inability to absorb game rules, product manuals, or history lessons. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t process the information.
My inability to read game rules and product manuals is only mildly annoying or inconvenient to others. Being incapable of absorbing history lessons took a toll on my GPA and proves somewhat embarrassing during Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy but otherwise isn’t a huge deal. But glazing over during sermons? Well, it not only seems disrespectful to the powers that be, but some of those powers (or the powers’ messengers) are related to me.
My mother is a devout Seventh Day Adventist but we rarely went to church because my father didn’t believe in God. However, the couple of times I did attend church as a child, I usually daydreamed then later found myself clueless (and my mother embarrassed) when the pastor asked me questions about the sermon later. And both of my in-laws are ministers (though my mother-in-law is now a social worker). I go to church every other year (Christmas Eve service when we are visiting them) and though I try really, really, reaaaallly hard to pay attention, I instantly glaze over during the sermons, only perking up when it’s time to get up and rock some Christmas carols.
Lately, however, I’ve been thinking that perhaps I need to go to church.
As you’ve probably gathered, I’m not particularly wed to the concept of God per se; rather, I believe in the power of the universe; that there’s a spirit of some kind driving the bus, but that spirit doesn't necessarily identify with a name or gender for me. But quite frankly, my faith has been wobbly of late, as I struggle with some personal matters, and also as I have cried over the suffering of friends like Anissa and Arianne. Not to mention the immense devastation of Haiti; incomprehensible and tragic on so many levels. None of it makes sense to me when I try to assure myself that the universe has a plan.
The other day when I was walking to pick up Laurel at school I passed a church (ironically, the same denomination of my in-laws). The signboard struck me. It said:
LOVE NOT GUILT
Simple words. No verse listing. Just a concept.
And I had a moment. This statement moved me; it’s a concept I can understand and apply to my own life. It’s a motto our world could serve to embrace. And seeing those words in print at a place of worship made me wonder whether it would be possible to find a church or some kind of gathering where spirituality, faith, and community could be explored in less traditional ways.
Because I do think of myself as a spiritually grounded person. Because I feel like I could use the power of community to help me along in these moments when I can’t understand what the hell the universe is up to. Because I think that there’s utility to assembling collectively to set intentions for peace and healing.
But I need something other than traditional sermons and Bible verses.
Tell me, if you’re a church go-er, what do you think my issue is with sermons? Or if you explore spirituality and faith in alternative ways, what do you do?