Yesterday we welcomed a wonderful guest singing group called Just Voices to worship. They join us a couple of times a year before they do a concert in our sanctuary. It is a beautiful partnership, and their a cappella voices sound splendid in our very lively sanctuary.
After the service, a member of the group lingered to thank me for my sermon. The singers are always most gracious. This was long after most everyone else had gone, however, so I knew this was important, not just a courtesy thank you. As we chatted, he noted that he wasn’t expecting a sermon to make him feel good, because he had grown up in a tradition in which the sermon always made him feel guilty or afraid.
I didn’t tell him that I was quite capable of preaching those sermons, too, but I did say that we really aren’t that kind of church. I thought about that young man all afternoon and the abuse that he suffered at the hands of the churches of his youth. I had another conversation this morning about a volunteer who had been yelled at by a former treasurer who was a bully and an angry abusive personality. I recently was writing an article about how often pastors are attacked not by the unhealthiest people in their church, but by the unhappiest.
This all left me wondering how much damage has been done to the cause of Christ by miserable Christians. Now, I could give you names of people I have worked with whose cynicism, despite their clichés, should make you run for your life. I could tell you about people whose mothers made their lives so miserable that they will be bitter until their last breath. We all could list the men whose egos built systems that aggrandized them and diminished others. What we have a much harder time recognizing are the times we get up on the wrong side of the bed and treat people in ways that are not kind, gentle, sweet … Christian.
Being Christian is who we are. It is not what we do only when it is convenient or easy.
Rev. Michael Piazza