Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A tale of two sermons

On Friday night the church my wife and girls attend put on a play about the crucifixion. My oldest daughter was in the play and she recruited my wife and youngest daughter to participate. The little drama was good and left everyone feeling a bit better I think.

Then the preacher sat down on the steps to the stage with the lights dimmed and started talking in a matter-of-fact voice. He was telling everyone what a downer Good Friday was. He never stood up while he spoke. He just kept hammering at what a bummer it was that it was Good Friday. Everyone left the building in a down mood.

Sunday, though, was a different story. He was walking around all jumpy (like he'd had five or six cups of coffee). His gestures were exaggerated. He sounded almost out of breath from excitement while talking. It was a wonderful day. Everything is born anew. Be happy. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. The room was happy and the people walked out into the sunlight in a much more festive mood.

Two different messages on two different days effecting two different moods - all by the same person.

He accomplished it through his voice, his gestures, his mannerisms and his clothes. On Friday night he spoke slowly and thoughtfully -- on Sunday it felt like he was winging it. On Friday every gesture spoke of weariness and depression -- on Sunday he gestured like a kid running toward the Christmas tree. On Friday he sat down while he spoke -- on Sunday he was all over the place. On Friday he wore a dark suit -- on Sunday he wore a white robe.

Both days, however, he held the attention of the audience in the palm of his hand.

Friday night's message was like the typical state's voir dire -- absolutely uninspiring. A prosecutor sets the tone when she says to the panel, "I know y'all are bummed out at having to be here today..." What kind of message does that send out to the jury? How enthused do you think the folks who sit on the jury are going to be?

I much prefer to thank the jurors for coming in and taking part in the most democratic of our democratic traditions.  I want a jury made up of folks who want to be there and who are eager to hear the evidence.

I'd much rather be delivering the Easter Sunday sermon than the Good Friday one. Wouldn't you?

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