Anti-Sermonite

This probably makes me a bad Christian, but I don’t believe in sermons. I’ve been hearing them all my life. I’ve heard good ones, bad ones, long ones, and . . . less long ones. But I’m just not convinced they really have any place as a mainstay of the Sunday worship service.

Teaching is important. It is, it really is. But in its present form, I don’t see how it qualifies as worship. I know, I know, it looks nice. Spend 40 minutes or so talking about God, that’s worshipful, right? Well . . . let’s look at what I classify as the three kinds of sermons.

The Topical Sermon
This is the one where the preacher has a message he wants to tell about X subject, and then searches through the Bible for verses that support his ideas on said topic. The pastor will tell you this is worship because he’s exhorting his congregation to live worshipful lives. But topical preaching isn’t worship. Not really. It’s the pastor saying, “God is so great. His Word supports all my theories.” Kinda seems to elevate the pastor over God. The whole “I’ve got something to say, and I’m gonna use God to help me say it” thing is not my idea of worship.

Personal Showcase Sermon
This is the one a lot of televangelist types like to use, but even the most small-time preacher can fall into the trap. In the personal showcase sermon, a preacher basically talks about himself–his life, his funny anecdotes, his kids, his tales of faith and valor and all things holy. Sometimes he’ll even reference his spectacular sins, the ones he committed before he was converted in a shaft of sparkling gold light. He’ll usually mention God in there, too, but in the casual “God and I are buddies, and we hope you can learn from us and one day join us here on the Mount of Transfiguration . . . but I’m not holding my breath” kind of way. Uh . . . not worship.

Expository Preaching
Bible scholars like this one a lot, but I’m not a fan, even though the idea sounds nice. The biblical text is rich with meaning, so the expository preacher will spend upwards of an hour unpacking all the deep layers of context and meaning and applications found in just a few verses. It’s meant to be a testament to their heartfelt love for the Word of God and the infinite truth found therein. That’s worship, right? That’s helpful teaching, right? Ahem . . . no and no. With few exceptions, pastors that preach from a passage of Scripture tend to lose the forest for the trees. The typical expositional sermon starts with the pastor reading the passage in its entirety. Usually takes about a minute. They then spend the next 45 minutes trying to redefine everyone’s understanding of what was just read. I’m sorry, but if I spend a grand total of 90 seconds reading a Bible verse out loud and 45 minutes expositing my observations, interpretations, and applications of what I believe the text means, doesn’t it seem like just a bit too much of the focus is placed on my words? The underlying message is, “God, I love your Word. And I’m sure that if you had the time, you would have explained yourself a little more clearly. But don’t worry. I’ll take it from here.”

In my falsely humble opinion, the sermon is the undoing of the modern Christian mind. Rather than encouraging people to read and study the Bible under the influence of the Holy Spirit, pastors are unwittingly training their listeners to stop thinking for themselves. Regardless of the method, I think most sermons wind up being the reproduction of a preacher’s personal Bible study. The study was helpful for the pastor, but it can be harmful for the person who now thinks “There’s no need to study the passage because it’s just been done for me!” On top of that, the big-picture messages of the Bible get lost in the details. The simple truths get lost in complex extractions. The calls to humility get lost in our pride. The prophecies become obscured by small-minded agendas.

So what do I recommend pastors do? Cut your sermon time in half. Double the time you spend reading the Word of God aloud, free of commentary. Give your congregation a little credit. Trust the Holy Spirit.

. . . he said, longwindedly.

For a more reliable discussion on the topic, go here.

January 24, 2008 question

In Vermont, a syrup must be A) entirely syrup and B) be flavored exclusively by maple, i.e. 100% maple syrup to be called maple syrup. No one guessed that, but Heather M (the M stands for Maple To The Core) hoped that were true, so today that will do just fine. Congrats on your sappy victory.

Now today we’re gonna play with words, because a friend of mine asserted, although mice is the plural of mouse and lice is the plural of louse, that spice is not the plural of spouse. So here’s today’s grammar question:

Which of the following is true, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary?

A. Blice is an accepted plural of blouse.
B. Dice is an accepted plural of douse.
C. Hice is an accepted plural of house.
D. Rice is an accepted plural of rouse.
E. Spice is an accepted plural of spouse.
F. Vice is an accepted plural of vouse.
G. All of the above
H. None of the above

Food, Glorious Food

For as much as I love it, I should probably talk about food on this blog at least once a week. I could easily do that every day . . . I would gladly repeat certain dishes. Carson’s pork chops. Eduardo’s deep dish pizza. Ben. Jerry.

And that’s the topic I’ll start off describing: ice cream. And not just any ice cream . . . no, wait. Any ice cream. I’m not super picky about what ice cream I’m eating. Chocolate. Cookies ‘n’ Cream. Vanilla. Neopolitan. Cookie Dough. All that with Hershey’s syrup. Baskin Robbins. Dairy Queen. Ben. Hag. Jerry. Das. So many flavors and brands to choose from.

But the important thing is this: it’s gotta be all the time. I. Need. Ice. Cream. Each. And. Every. Day. Not exactly the advice of a physician, per se, but what do they know? There’s just something about wrapping up a day with a big heaping bowl of silky, chocolatey, chilly, creamy, slow-churned, gently frozen goodness. Makes whatever happened that day bearable. Doesn’t hurt to be eating it next to my beautiful, ice-cream loving wife, either. We’re co-dependent ice cream addict enablers with no regrets.

And it can’t ever be too sweet. I don’t believe in that. Saying an ice cream is too sweet is like saying a saint is too holy. Just ain’t possible. Here’s to you, ice cream. I heart you, even if you’re killing me softly. I scream for you. You complete me and then some.

January 23, 2007 question

All this science, I don’t understand, it’s just my job five days a week. Here are the rocket scientists who knew that Eltonian fact:

Karen H (the H stands for Holy Moses, I Have Been Removed)
Meg
Steve T (the T stands for That’s Why They Call It The Blues)
Andy

Now on to sadder news. Heath Ledger died yesterday, and that shocks me. I don’t know precisely why it shocks me. Maybe it’s the fact that I felt like I knew him. And maybe that’s the sign of a great actor. Create the illusion of a relationship with the viewer, and they’re yours. In fact, I think that’s true with just about anything. A bank, a restaurant, a car dealer, a lawyer . . . make someone believe in the relationship, and success awaits. I’m sure there’s more to say about that, but this is trivia, and we should move on to something less sappy. Here’s today’s question:

What is the percentage of maple syrup content per volume required for a product to be named and advertised as maple syrup, according to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture?

The Adventures of Frog, Toad, and Addison

Day 1

When we came home from pre-school, the first thing Frog, Toad, and I did was to go for a ride on my monster truck. Frog was driving on the couch, and Toad was riding; he was scared. After that, we ate lunch.

After lunch, we went downstairs, and Frog and Toad played slot car racing. Frog won the race; he was controlling the red car, Lightning McQueen. Toad and Doc Hudson came in second. Then, Frog and Toad watched me play on the computer. Then Mommy came home. She was amazed to meet Frog and Toad. Then I asked if we could go to Chuck E. Cheese’s, and Daddy and Mommy said, “Yes,” that I could go to Chuck E. Cheese’s.

When we got there, we were at Chuck E. Cheese’s. We watched a video, played in a puppet show, then I played some games. Frog and Toad played the motorcycle game. While I was playing games (the scariest one of all was the one with the wooden track) Frog and Toad snuck into the kitchen of Chuck E. Cheese’s. They made a fly pie pizza. Their tummies were full. They didn’t eat the whole thing of pizza. They had one dragonfly for Toad and one for Frog. Then we went back to the table and ate some more pizza. And then we played some more games. Then we left to go home.

At home, we played Duck, Duck, Goose with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Then we went to bed. Frog slept on my left, and Toad slept on my right.

Day 2

We woke up and it was snowing out. We went outside and shoveled snow, but not Frog and Toad. They just watched from my window. They played Duck, Duck, Goose by themselves. They didn’t go outside, but they did get into a little trouble. They got cookies out of the pantry, and they set them on the table. They didn’t eat them all, but they got crumbs on the floor and got pretty dirty. But when we got inside, I was surprised when we got upstairs. I ate one cookie, and Mommy was so glad that I ate a cookie. That was my first snack, and I had no snacks for the rest of the day.

I wasn’t in trouble, but we could have no sugar for the rest of the day, just goldfish. Toad took a nap in the morning. We played some games. We played Elefun, Later, Frog and Toad played pirates, and then basketball, and then I drew a picture of all of us on the chalkboard.

We had so much fun, then it was bedtime. I loved having them with me. The End.

–Addison

New Site of the Week

Here’s a site I found during my daily random search for trivia questions. It’s called wronganswers.com. The site is “dedicated to the proof of the proper role of WWW in research,” and it does a fair job of fulfilling said mission.

It isn’t the most professional site in cyberspace, but the concept is clever. Users provide made-up facts, which eliminates the need for verification of any kind. I suppose if the answers were dependably wrong, such consistency would undermine the site’s integrity as an unreliable source. Information proven untrue can at least be helpful. Uncertain veracity is far more dangerous, and I think that’s the whole point.

Anyway, my favorite wrong answer so far is under the Law & Politics section. One user defined Habeas Corpus as Latin for “She got a body on her!” They’re not all that funny, but I laughed out loud on that one.

P.S. The site also has a string of relatively funny fake banner ads. I’m sure they’re done by some other third party, but one new site at a time.

January 22, 2008 question

Long lost credit to all the people who knew the search for Bobby Fischer ends in Iceland:

Paul K (the K stands for King Me)
Karen M (the M stands for Might Be Thinking Of Checkers)
Heidi
Micaela
Elena
Heather M (the M stands for Multiple Jump Maneuver)
Daniel
Mike K (the K stands for Kinda Think You’re Still Thinking About The Wrong Game)
Jocelyn
Lee
Colleen
Jacqueline

Now, as is the trivia custom every year after MLK day, it’s time for song lyric trivia. Here’s today’s question:

How many days a week does Elton John work as a Rocket Man? (According to the lyrics of the song with the same name . . . not in real life, where the answer is obviously two.)

Frog and Toad’s Wild Ride

Addison’s pre-school has a fun assignment for which each kid gets to bring home their friends Frog and Toad for adventures real and fictitious. I hardly think those two things are mutually exclusive, but nevertheless, those adventures are underway. They’ve already raced slot cars, helped Addison navigate his regimen of educational Web sites, and ridden on a monster truck (not pictured). They were also trapped inside Colin’s room during nap time, but we ran a successful reconnaissance mission without waking baby.

Baby, by the way, is getting a bit too long. Too long, in fact, for his car seat. He’s past the 26-inch limit by nearly two inches. So I had to switch out the old, convenient, carrier seat in favor of the new, cumbersome, “pull the kid out of the car no matter how badly you’d like for him to continue sleeping” model. He has also moved into a new diaper class, the big Stage 3. This means that his trips to Deuceland only slightly wander beyond the boundaries of Diaperville instead of marching full speed ahead into Dirty Knee County and along Another Changed Onesie Blvd. It’s fantastic.

Ah, well, the Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle have concluded, so I must be on my way. The first significant Frog and Toad adventure is coming soon: we’re going to Chuck E. Cheese’s. You know, where a kid can be a kid, and an adult can have an aneurysm.

Please pray.

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Abbreviated

Who would have thought that a Scientology video would remind me of something I love to do? Well, it did. For some odd reason, I find strange satisfaction in coming up with abbreviations for phrases that would never be used frequently enough to actually require abbreviations. Here are some of my favorites (and most of them come from work):

SCO. So-Called Office. My office mate and I have shared the same workspace for nine years. It’s always been the kind of office where people congregate. People come to see me. People come to see Elena. People come to see both of us. People come to see the people who come to see either of us. If your eyes didn’t tell you otherwise, you’d swear there was no door. No one knocks. No one does a fake “knock knock.” And we like it that way. But there was one particular day when there were five people (other than the two of us) in our office, and none of them were talking to either of us. At that moment, I looked at Elena and said, “This isn’t an office. People call it an office, but it’s not an office.” And there it became, the SCO.

HWOPIN. Hand-Written On a Post-It Note. This one is pronounced as a single word (HWO-pin). It just became easier than saying, “Yeah, just make note of it on a post-it.” Now it’s just, “Put it on a HWOPIN.” See how much easier that is?

S of a B. This one’s self-explanatory. Not the nicest, but it sounds super nice in a dorky way when you abbreviate it.

UA. Unnecessary abbreviation. I don’t really use this one. It kind of seems frivolous to double up. Giving the abbreviation process its own abbreviation feels like bureaucracy.

Tasteless Torture

I was feeding Colin last night . . . sweet potatoes and rice cereal. I don’t like sweet potatoes, but it’s a normal enough food. Rice products are usually just fine. Seems like a perfectly humane meal. But then Colin grabbed the spoon and flicked it like a slingshot. Not a ton of food went flying, but some got on my hand, enough to taste. I just licked it off instinctively. The next few moments are a blur. All I can really remember is my tongue recoiling in shock.

It’s just not right, what we do to our kids. If we are to trust the experts, our kids’ taste buds aren’t fully developed. Okay, A) I never trust the experts. Just on principle. B) How would they know if a kid’s taste buds are developed? Is it the same criteria as a typical parent applies? “Look, he’s not screaming! He loves it!” Do they give babies horribly putrid mush just to see if they’ll react. “10:30 a.m. Subject ate spoiled tofu laced with garlic and topped with strawberry cream cheese blended with vinegar to reach proper consistency. Subject made funny face, but ate everything. Taste bud development . . . negative.” And C) Just because a kid can’t taste like we can, does that justify spooning swill into his mouth?

Sure, the food is good for a baby, but what I tasted has no business sliding across the surface of a human tongue. Those foods are ingredients at best. Eating them alone is like chewing on baking soda or sipping raw egg whites. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, and maybe that’s a bit of an understatement. But it was gross, and it seems wrong.

Colin won’t remember that I fed him this stuff. In his mind, there’s no need to forgive me. In my mind . . . I don’t know if I can forgive myself.

Course, on second thought . . . if this is my worst offense against my children, I’ll die a happy man.