A Half Baked Sermon - A Hole In The Darkness
The Baptist Church of Rovigo chooses to welcome people on the margins: people with mental health issues, people with “colorful” pasts, immigrants, the poor, the elderly. It is humbling to preach there, being entrusted with the responsibility of announcing the Gospel to such a wide variety of people.
My sermon in Rovigo on Sunday on “Jesus: The Light of the World” felt “half-baked.” I had spent hours working on it--reading commentaries, looking up Italian words and writing and rewriting and considering illustrations. But, as I laid on the podium a sermon with more red-ink last-minute scribbles than black print, I had a renewed awareness of my dependency on the Spirit to communicate something through, or even in spite of, my words.
Today the moderator of the church forwarded me a message from a young man who wasn’t in the service on Sunday but who listened to the sermon over the radio:
“I am passing through a difficult time…The harder I try, the worse I feel, and I am in crises that I can’t even explain right now. On Sundays I listen to the service on the radio, and this Sunday I liked the sermon by Pastor Debbie. As soon as possible I will be in church and we will be able to talk more…Remember me in prayer, because I feel empty.”
Robert Louis Stevenson, as a boy, looked out into an empty night and watched a man lighting the gas lights. When he was asked what he was watching, he observed, “A man is punching holes in the darkness.”
That quote doesn’t translate in Italian. I know this for sure having seen the congregation’s faces go blank when I said in Italian what I thought would communicate “punching holes in the darkness.” I had to stop and describe a black wall and do sound effects to illustrate making holes in the wall-- “Pught…pught…pught”--and then gesture rays of light shining through the holes. It was not a fine rhetorical moment…
The young man listening over the radio couldn’t even see the gestures, but, it seems that at least one hole—“pught”—was punched into his darkness. His night was not turned into day, but, this broken child of God knew that there was a church that cared enough about him to broadcast Good News over the radio. The moderator’s husband had already punched a hole in his darkness by caring enough to give the young man his cellphone number. In that way, the young man was able to communicate to someone that he is struggling, and that is already a step toward the Light. And, the moderator punched a hole in a dreary Tuesday morning for me, when she forwarded the message.
Please pray for this young man who has a history of severe depression and whose experiences in more legalistic churches have only fed his illness. Pray that he will find joy and light in the presence of God who is the Light.
And, thank God with us for this church which, with its capacity to embrace people on the margins, is punching holes in the darkness.
“Pught, pught, pught…”
Your missionaries in Italy,
Debbie, along with Jim, Luke & Ben