Stream of Consciousness Sermon Mullet

First, a little definition. The way I understand a stream of consciousness sermonic form is that the preacher allows his or her mind to wander through the text from one thought to another as the brain does, rather subconsciously, what the brain does, and that is work through issues toward understanding. People do this all the time when they ‘talk out’ a problem. It is what people who have complicated problems are doing when they constantly brainstorm on the white board.

The principle for preaching is the preacher, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and through prayer, through study of the text and of the issues, allows the mind to wander without trying to enforce any form-no outline, no pattern, no loop, no point even–just let the mind move from one thing to the other until we get back where we started from.

So that is what I did yesterday with Romans 6. The difference, of course, is that I did not do this Sunday morning in front of everyone, I did it about two weeks ago in my study and with my computer as I typed away. Then, when it was finished, I did sculpt it a little, and cut a little, and clean it up a bit, then tidy up some words. But essentially, I just let my mind wander. What happened was truly fascinating to me–my mind did indeed work through it in a way that was interesting, engaging, theological solid, and practically meaningful. I was very pleased with it. After cleaning it up a bit, I delivered it yesterday.

The best line that came out of the endeavor was, “Romans 6:23 is like a bad haircut. It is a mullet. Business up front (wages of sin is death) and party in the back (the gift of God is eternal life).”

mullet-hairstyle
Romans 6:23 Visual Represented    (photo courtesy of the 1980s)
But here are the five things that must guide the process. There are probably more than five, but somewhere in the arcane rules of the internet it states clearly that a blog can really only have five things.

  1. Discipline cannot be completely abandoned. The stream of thought needs to be related to the text. You can’t jump from “The wages of sin is death” to “why does the neighbor’s dog hate me” unless it is somehow relevant. Don’t confuse this with laziness.
  2. You must study ahead of time before you begin. If you try this with nothing in your noggin then you will end up with a sermon that is just a pile of garbage.
  3. The stream of consciousness needs to finish with solid application, not illustration.
  4. You can’t do this every week. I wouldn’t anyway, because I am a big proponent of varying the form of the sermon from week to week. For example, this upcoming week I am using an image driven motif. I haven’t used images in almost two months.
  5. Don’t be in a bad or foul mood when you do this, or your sermon will be depressive and dark. I was in a very good humor when I engaged in this exercise and I think it showed in the delivery. We laughed a lot Sunday. Your mood informs the sermon.

As I said, there were several things that didn’t make the cut. In my original manuscript (and yes, I generally type a word for word manuscript every week, which I leave in the study when I preach, for I preach without notes) I had a long riff on baptism that was slightly more confrontational than I wanted in the finished product, so I axed that out. I still might use that thought in a future sermon, but not on this day. The finishing theme of the sermon is life–or, “Alive” and for two weeks I’ve had Pearl Jam’s song “Alive” in my head. In a different context, I might have played a short clip of the music video as the opening to the sermon and then just took off from there, but given our country musicish church I decided that Pearl Jam might be a little over the top, but boy, that would have worked great. Even the grotesque middle stanza would have worked in a free-style discussion about sin, realizing who you really are, and deciding to live the “alive” life. But I didn’t, yet I’ll leave it here for you to enjoy, if you like. that sort of thing.

 

 

 

 

 

ROMANS SIX–FROM THE GREEK TEXT

It is hard for me to believe that at one time I thought I would finish my translation of Romans before Independence Day.  Here it is July 6 and I am not even half-way through.  But I am having fun.

Theological Notes:  The baptism imagery is key in Romans 6.  It feels to me like Paul might be quoting some kind of early baptism liturgy regarding the old way of life as opposed to the new to make his point that sin should not be a natural part of life for the Christ-follower.

There is also a rather pointed sexual reference mid-way through the text that carries through to the end.  What most translations render as ‘members’ are, to me, clear references to genitalia.  Paul might have something specific in mind, such as men who are frequenting temple prostitution or sexual rituals in connection with pagan practices.  I say men because there could be some double entendre with the word “present” which can also mean “stand up.”  Instead of getting too graphic, however, I chose to use “body parts” although I don’t mean ears and toes.

For Paul it is all about who you serve.  Bob Dylan and Paul would agree that you “Gotta Serve Somebody.”  Paul believes there are only two choices–you can serve sin or you can serve Messiah.  The payoff for serving sin is death, but the payoff for serving Messiah is eternal life (v. 23).

Translation Notes:

Paul uses the word “walk” (v. 4) in all its metaphorical richness to describe the life we live after our baptism.  Again, I have chosen to use the metaphor walk rather than render it ‘live’ because it seems to me to speak almost as richly as the original metaphor did in the ancient world.

Verses 17 and 18 only make sense if they are interwoven.  These were particularly troublesome to get at.

In verse 20 I added the word “responsibility” to help smooth out the rendering.  Without adding that or some other word, the meaning is muddled.  Paul is trying to say that before we became faithful followers of the Lord, back when we lived as servants of sin, we were free from the requirements of righteousness.  Now, however, that we have received grace, we no longer have that luxury, for we are responsible to be righteous, we are responsible for our actions.

Chapter Six
1. What shall we say? Should we persist in sin so that grace might increase?
2. Never! We died to sin, how can we now live in it?
3. Do you not know that those of us who were baptized into Messiah Jesus were baptized into his death?
4. Therefore we were buried together with him in death through baptism so that just as Messiah was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so too we might walk in newness of life.
5. For if we become united in the likeness of his death, we also will have the likeness of resurrection.
6. This we know—that our old person has been crucified together with him—so that he might abolish the sinful body to no longer serve sin.
7. For anyone who has died is freed from sin.
8. If we died with Christ, we believe we will live with him.
9. Knowing that Christ has been raised from the dead, he no longer dies, nor does death any longer hold dominion over him.
10. For when he died, he died to sin once for all. Now that he lives, he lives to God.
11. You also should think of yourselves as dead to sin but alive to God in Messiah Jesus.
12. Therefore, do not obey your desires, letting sin reign in your mortal body.
13. Neither present parts of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present your body parts to God as instruments of righteousness, present yourselves to God as if you came back to life from the dead.
14. For sin no longer will have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but grace.
15. What now? Should we sin just because we are not under the law but under grace? Never!
16. Do you not know that when you present yourselves as a servant to anyone in obedience, as a servant you must obey, whether it is sin unto death or obedience unto righteousness?
17&18  But the grace of God is that even though you had been obedient servants of sin, now, having been freed from it, you have given over your hearts to the form of teaching that makes you into servants of righteousness.
19. I speak in simple, everyday human ways because of your weakness. You once presented your body parts enslaved to impurity and lawlessness for the sake of more lawlessness, but now you must present your body parts enslaved to righteousness in holiness.
20. For when you were slaves to sin, you were free from the responsibility to righteousness.
21. What fruit did you have back then? Only those which you are now ashamed, those that lead to death.
22. But now that you have been freed from it and are now serving God, you have your holiness and the resulting eternal life as fruit.
23. For death is the daily wages of sin, but eternal life is the gift of God through Messiah Jesus our Lord.