If your childhood religious experience is anything like mine, the words “Sunday morning sermon” bring up images of a pulpit, a congregation, and a pastor or priest speaking from a prepared text. If you grew up in a church with frequent missionary guest speakers, you may also remember squirming in the seats with your friends and watching the minutes tick past noon and into overtime. There seemed to be something about spending a few decades in South America (where the congregation was unlikely to be wearing digital watches) that gave our guests a hazy recollection of North American concepts like the ladies imprisoned in the nursery, a roast in the oven at home, or kickoff time for the ball game.
No one would have dared interrupt them, though – the sermon was sacrosanct, or at least its continuity was. Nobody would have interrupted ANYBODY behind the pulpit (or the music stand, if it was a Sunday night). That kind of interaction was reserved for Wednesday night Bible study. Even then, participants in the discussion tended to be the same people, with occasional brave words spoken by quieter adults or the rare teenager.
This, then, is why I nearly dropped my Bible the first time I sat in the wooden pew of my Quaker church and heard a church member casually interrupt the sermon with a related comment. What was he doing?! He was talking! In church! During the sermon! Did I need to worry about stray lightning bolts?
No, as it turned out – the Quaker tradition of “that of God”, the belief that each person has in themselves some essential spark that is from God, is simply alive and well at my church. Sure, the pastor preaches, but that doesn’t mean that somebody else might not have a darn good idea. And that could be anybody else, regardless of gender, age, speaking ability, or education – they take that “everybody” part seriously. So if a listener has a relevant thought, they raise their hand (or not) and toss a new idea into the ring. It’s fascinating, liberating, and to my Baptist sensibilities, it’s the slightest bit rebellious.
I love it.
In a traditional Sunday morning sermon where the pastor speaks and the congregation listens, “What is Jesus to you?” is understood to be a rhetorical question. The pastor would list a few things that Jesus might be, and then answer the question with a sermon on the nature and person of Christ. But when my pastor asked this question, he actually wanted an answer, and he wasn’t going to start preaching again until we answered it.
The first answers were exactly what you’d expect from a group of seasoned Christians, and nearly everyone in the congregation tossed out an idea or two. Jesus is my friend. My hope. My salvation. My Lord. My redeemer. You could hear the wheels turning as people thought through the Psalms and came up with a few more. Jesus is my Rock. My deliverer. My shield. My shepherd. We cast our minds to the New Testament. Jesus is my Savior. My intercessor. My light. My king. Words were flying now, and they kept coming. My joy. My peace. My teacher. My rescuer. My fishing buddy.
Yep – it came from the quiet-spoken man over on the left – Jesus is my fishing buddy. I heard a few chuckles, and I admit I smiled too. And then I stopped, and I thought about it, and my soul said, YES.
Sure, He’s my salvation and my hope and my peace. He is my rock, my shield and (clap) my deliverer, my fortress and my strength. (OK, so maybe not everybody knows that camp song, but I can’t say “rock” and “shield” without clapping.) Jesus is all those things, and those things make great singalong tunes. But I want Jesus to be my fishing buddy too, even though I don’t know how to fish.
I love the image of this taciturn Friend out on the lake in his boat, apparently alone, but actually in constant companionship with his God. I can’t even call it praying, because you don’t pray to your fishing buddy – you just talk to him. Or not. Depends on if you’re in the mood for talking, or if you just want to hang out for a while.
I want that. I want Jesus to ride around in the passenger seat of my grungy Civic, where I will not have to apologize for all the library books on the front seat because He’s just that good of a friend. I want Him to sprawl out in the chair next to my sewing machine when I’m on a tear finishing summer jammies for the kids, just because He feels like being around me – we might talk a little, or He might chill out and read whatever novel He’s into right now, just enjoying being with His kid for a while. When I decide I’m done with my work for the day and I go out on the porch to look at the sunset, I want Him to be there saying “Wow” right next to me.
I think that if Jesus is part of my everyday life like that, it will make Him easier to find in the holy silence of Sunday morning’s open worship. If I’ve been listening to Him all week, I’ll be more likely to hear Him on Sundays. Maybe it will make Sunday feel a little less set apart, but maybe, I think, I hope, it will end up making every day holy.