I have heard more poor sermons than hopeful ones. Often I hear some kind of mix of nihilism, sentimentality and gnosticism streaming from the pulpit rather than attentive, faithful, theology and so more-often-than-not whenever I am listening to a sermon I am also practicing the skill of 1) picking my battles and 2) tuning out. Over the last few years, after I leave a church service I am often exhausted and/or angry and I often feel that Jesus is very far away. Often, it has me wondering why in the world I studied theology and why I am continuing on down the path of further studying Christian theology. However, this sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr. and his son Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III this past Sunday in the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago has left me thinking “I wanna do that, I wanna be that.” I stumbled across it in a tweet from Sojourner magazine and it has me in a very good place – a place that has me wanting more of the church and a place that has me wanting to give more to the church.
Here are a few wonderful things about this video clip sermon:
1. The preachers are standing among people, surrounded by their congregation and not high above on a stage, removed and untouchable to their parishioners
2. The scripture text is localized in the preachers’ places, their histories and the present cries of the folks in their church.
3. They use gender neutral language for God.
4. They ramp up the tone of the sermon so by the end you might feel yourself crying or sweating or something in the middle. All this is to say is they deliver their sermon with tremendous conviction.
5. They name specific people and events that their hearers can identify with which gives shape to the scripture text they are drawing from – they are preaching the particularity of this sacred text. (similar to #2)
6 They continuously return to goal of worshiping God and not idols.
7. They use repetition to create a pulse and rhythm to the message that listeners find themselves moved into.
8. They seem sad and frustrated and overflowing with a joyful hope and those feelings are a safe place to identify with many who worship in church.