I checked out Old Church's sermon from last week because members kept posting an "#iamlovedbygod" hashtag and I wondered if maybe it was an actual "you are a beloved child of God" message, which I'm down for.
- Looked at the "come to me all who are weary" verse and followed it up with "Have you gone to Jesus every day this week [for rest]?" which again puts the focus not on taking comfort in Jesus as our provider but on following up on our obligations to look to him. Which, in fact, makes the concept not seem very restful!
- Oh, here's the hashtag part. We're all being told to take a selfie and add the hashtag. Focus is on reminding ourselves we're loved by God and reminding others that they are as well. I have no qualms with this, this is super necessary and important. (I do think the shame language also being used in so many of these sermons is unintentional. Shame is baked into the evangelical church language in such a way that it often colors even unshameful concepts.)
- "If you believe you are loved by God, you will have a desire to love him" -- teetering on the edge of something shamey, but hasn't gone over the edge yet. Depends on whether this will ultimately be framed as "Resting in God's love will strengthen your love for him" or, a la Daria:
- ...Oh. Yeah. We're landing in a "Do you want God? If not, why not? What are you doing wrong?" space. Which is difficult for me to hold in conjunction with accepting God's love because it makes it... transactional. And weirdly re-centers God's love onto being about me and my decisions, which I think is actually the opposite of the goal.
- Huh. Yeah. We talked about "God loves you" long enough to make it a hashtag and now it's all admonishing us to love God more. Hashtags are fun but they are not, in fact, powerful enough to overcome the shame of 20 years of evangelical sermons (and probably the rest of this one). Can't God just love us sometimes without us having to Do Everything Perfectly in response? Can't we talk about that for more than 30 seconds? Does every sermon need to center on a "do better" action point?
- We're being asked to consider whether we'd be willing to do what God asks us to. This is only tangentially related to God loving us, now it's all about obedience and surrender, which is such a narrow understanding of our relationship with God!
- Talking about re-understanding our identity - "who you think are vs. who God thinks you are." I am sure they're thinking of it in a "we think we're self-sufficient and God thinks we need him" way or something, but I'm hooooooping it's going to be "we think we are weak evil sinners and God thinks we are his children created in his image and made perfect through him."
- Oh, good, he's going to Gideon, which is about God having a more positive belief about us than we do. PHEW.
- "Whose voice are you listening to about your own identity?" Well, for a long time it was the church and that messed me up, LOL! Fortunately I came around to being able to hear what God himself is saying about me.
- Ooer, we are maybe getting into some weird territory about disability being caused by God for his purposes, which gets... real messy. And it wasn't even the main point, it was just a random example. Probably could have made the point about not being defined by our weaknesses without making that a centerpiece.
Final thoughts: Some good moments, some bad moments. Glad to hear that God thinks better of us than we do ourselves, but I'd rather the emphasis wasn't on us having to do things in response. The pressure to do things is, for me, exactly what contributes to my anxiety that I'm not enough.
My palate cleanser worship song for all this, btw: "A Little Longer" by Brian & Jenn Johnson. The verse from the point of view of the worshiper is this sad, mournful tune that keeps landing on "I can't thank you enough" but it's not in a joyful overflowing way, it's sorrowful. It's hyperaware of not being able to do enough. The singer's tone is so upset and dismayed at her inadequacy to praise God to the level he deserves. This is how I felt at basically every church service, every youth retreat, every worship night, for most of my churchgoing years.
And then in the second half, the tone changes to a much more peaceful tune, and we transition into this, from God's POV:
You don't have to do a thing
Just simply be with me
And let those things go
'Cause they can wait another moment
It always makes me cry (I had to pause writing for a minute and just sit here crying at it). There's such a sense of palpable relief at the idea of God saying, "You. Don't. Have. To. Do. Anything. Just be with me."
And that, my friends, is where I feel God's love. There's no admonishment, no "have you read your Bible today," no "have you fully surrendered to God," none of that. Just... being with him. Because being with him, truly with him, is going to change my life and my heart more than any sermon or any pastoral instruction. And it wasn't until I actually let go of those sermons and pastoral instructions and let myself be with God that I found him.
I don't want to get into it in detail but I am genuinely very, very worried for how things are going to go down in November, because if Biden wins (and I think it's likely) I can't see a scenario in which Trump gives up his power, nor one in which the people who wouldn't stand up to him the last four years suddenly stand up to him this time and make him. And even if they do... the fanbase is going to be mad, and many are likely to be violent.
So even as I'm planning my NaNoWriMo, there's definitely a "worst case scenario" thought in the back of my brain that who knows if there'll even be a US in November...
I'm hoping. And I'm praying, because I truly think a miraculous softening of hearts across the country might be the only thing to get us into 2021 in relative safety.
In case you missed it... I have a TikTok now. Specifically for a series of videos I've been making and posting as an easy, quick creative project. I've been taking some of the Zoom-style celebrity interviews happening on late night talk shows since the pandemic and editing in my own questions. (And, yes, I definitely took some inspiration from Weird Al.) It's been stupid and ridiculous and a ton of fun and has become part of my "winding down from work" routine every day. So I'm sure there'll be more of them to come.