Feel-good Church?

How many of you expect to go to church every week for a pumped up, high energy, spiritual motivational talk? Do you want your church to be the equivalent of one of those high caffeine, high sugar “energy drinks”? That can be a formula for short term growth. Some preachers profit handsomely by taking the motivational speaker approach to the pulpit, but let me tell you a true story about a particular Episcopal parish.

This parish had a reputation for an elaborate Palm Sunday passion play put on year after year complete with costumes, staging, dramatic acting and so forth. The part of sentencing, flogging and crucifying Jesus was particularly dramatic. The whole church got involved and quite a few people from the community attended on Palm Sunday as well as Easter.

One year the role of Jesus was played by a gentleman whose passion was acting in local repertory theatre and he had a marvelous, resonant tenor voice. Two days before Palm Sunday the man playing the role of Jesus came down with flu like symptoms and laryngitis. For a while there was great confusion with the passion play troupe. Should they cancel? What should they do?

Another man who was an English professor volunteered to play the part. He did not have time to memorize the lines so they arranged for one of the bass singers in the choir to read the part of Jesus using a microphone. The English professor-Jesus mimed the part with hand and facial gestures. The effect was even greater than the original plan. Everyone was deeply moved by what they experienced that day.After the service, many people gathered round the professor’s very bright 7 year old son. Someone asked “What did you think of your father playing the role of Jesus?” The young boy looked at the adults around him and without hesitating he replied “It was disgusting.” [pause]

You cannot begin to approach the glory of the resurrection unless you spend some time in the human reality of the nasty, unfair, brutal criminal execution of the man whose only objective in life was to bring us closer to God. You cannot get pumped up about Jesus our savior unless you spend some time experiencing what the young boy described so well as “disgusting.”

Which brings us back to the beginning. I have driven around this town lately and I am amazed at the number of churches here. But there is something unique Grace Church offers the world that you are not likely to find elsewhere. We do not shy away from difficult feelings in our community worship. We embrace the entire range of human emotion and experience. We include the disgusting nature of the crucifixion in our liturgy today.

While we have fun and enjoy each other, we will never be a 52 Sunday feel-good motivational church. Instead we are a fully human church alive to every emotion Jesus experienced. Our worship here at Grace Church is fully human and it is our gift to this community. We do not shy away from difficult things because the only way you will ever fully embrace what God does on Easter is to spend some time with Jesus the man on Palm Sunday.