Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Morning Preacher: Interactive Sermons

Yesterday's gospel lesson (as many of you know) was the story of Mary and Martha. Great text but, similar to The Good Samaritan, difficult to find something new to say. I went to a church yesterday where the priest basically said, "I've preached on this a lot; so what do you think of this story?" which was either brave or foolhardy. I think it worked all right because the church is small and the congregation stable--not a lot of visitors. But "What do you think of it?" is a mighty broad question to be throwing out to the congregation, in my opinion.

It was hard for me to keep my mouth shut! I had a sermon I could have preached, seeing as this congregation had never heard it before. It's actually interactive, too, but with very specific questions: How many of you picture Martha in the kitchen? How many of you picture Martha cleaning?

The great thing about having interaction with the congregation during the sermon is that the congregation is awake and involved. The problem can be that you get a Certain Type that are happy to share while a lot of people who might have interesting and worthwhile things to say tend to keep to themselves. That's why I like to really focus the interactive part, making it safe for everyone to contribute while keeping a bit of a rein on those who would want to take over.

Yesterday's reactions were fascinating--excellent sermon prep for the next time I get to preach on Mary and Martha. All but one of the people who shared were women, all of them expressing pain at the way Martha is portrayed. The one man who talked, talked about Martha's "negative energy." I noticed that he was not paired with a woman. I wasn't totally surprised.

Great story, Mary and Martha, but boy howdy have women been poorly served by the church with this text. Over and over the women who shared said something along the lines of: Someone still has to make dinner and women do not get let off the hook. Basically, what I heard is that when most women hear this story, they hear that they have to drop everything and also still do everything. This is a story that tends to weigh people down--women down, I should say. That's something I hope the church can combat.

I wouldn't have done the sermon this way, but I admit I was very glad to hear these reactions. Next time I'm given Mary and Martha, I'll be able to speak about the pain I heard. A most unusual and most enlightening sermon.


TexasRed said...

Definitely a different take than I've heard on this passage. Great insights!

Anonymous said...

Our sermon was about how everyone is both Mary *and* Martha. Interesting idea ...