I’m sure anybody who has attended church for any length of time has encountered the phenomenon of sermon applications. You know, the one to three things at the end of the sermon that we can immediately apply to our lives? It can be hard to miss, especially if the majority of the sermon is devoted to these points. I am not trying to slam on those who preach in this manner. But I am suggesting that by doing this, all we are doing as pastors is trying to satisfy the congregants’ religious needs in a very consumeristic manner. I think and hope that there is another way to preach in order to fend of this temptation to be a religious vending machine.
When I think about sermon applications, it means that there is something else I should be doing as a Christian. There is something else I need to tack onto the faith that I have. But really, I could care less about tacking something else onto my faith. Because, in effect, if all we do is take the sermon application and tack it onto our life every Sunday, we run the risk of creating a big game of pin the tail on the donkey. And I don’t want to be playing that the rest of my life. We make Christianity out to be a paint-by-number portrait when Christianity and faith seem to be quite messy at times, and life doesn’t really follow a set pattern. Instead, I want a Christianity that is in my veins. That moves me. That inspires me. That gives birth to love and peace and grace and gentleness and kindness and self-control. Not a Christianity that I can simply add something to, like using a trendy scarf to jazz up an outfit. Frederick Buechner writes that to truly know something is to participate in it. He says it runs through your bloodstream. And I would add that it is pumped through your heart. To know Christ is to participate in him, to have the love of Christ permeate your being to the point that you reek with his very aroma.
I think sermons shouldn’t be just the run-of-the-mill, simplistic reductionistic sermons that we have made them out to be. They should poke and prod us. They should make us uncomfortable, and yet give us hope. They should get inside of us and become a part of us. If not, we will only be adding more and more applications to the point that we have neglected Christianity and more specifically Christ himself. And if we do this, we are not being faithful ministers. We are prostituting the gospel.