Week 35: Mt. Spokane Church, 31 August 2008

This morning was the fifth message in an 8 part series based on A Heart Like Mine by Cindy Valenti-Scinto, called “One is Not the Loneliest Number” (which is also the fifth of eight chapters in the book). I’m not sure what the book’s chapter is about (we didn’t buy it, although Scinto was in the lobby, autographing copies), but I’m pretty sure the sermon was tied to the book only by its title. Without reservation, I can say this was not the worst sermon we’ve heard (All Nations Christian Center holds that dubious title), but it might be a close second. There were four pages of fill-in-the-blank sermon notes, but here’s the highlights:

Discovering God’s will for your life will include facing the issue of
3 Biblical Truths That Can Help Us Deal with Loneliness
BIBLICAL TRUTH #1: God is omnipresent.
BIBLICAL TRUTH #2: The omnipresence of God does not mean that God is present in
exactly the same sense everywhere.
BIBLICAL PRINCIPLE* #3: The omnipresence of God is applied by
cultivating a consciousness of God’s presence at all times.

(Farmergirl attended the youth service downstairs, and reports that her sermon included the line, “Don’t take a theology class in college, because it’ll mess you up and you’ll go to hell” . . . if that’s a fair representation, then the sermon we heard gets knocked down to #3).

Throughout the sermon notes (and projected on screen, and repeated by the pastor) was the exhortation to “Please turn in your Bibles to [book, chapter:verse citation].” How do you know to bring a Bible to church? Is it a denominational thing? How is that knowledge transmitted? How many does a family — say, of three — bring? One each? One to share? Between the three of us, we have 83 years of church attendance–some where near 4,000 services we’ve attended. Why don’t we know the answer to this question?

A portion of each of the verses he wanted us to look up (about 15 passages) was printed in the sermon notes . . . and those same pieces were also printed on screen — but never the entire passage, which just seemed really wrong: it doesn’t cost anything but a few minutes to make a few more PowerPoint slides . . . why not make it available to folks who didn’t bring Bibles (as they’re not supplied in the pews), to guests, and to folks who — for whatever reason — don’t have them along?

You may recall toward the beginning of the project, Farmergirl wasn’t clear on how to use the fill-in-the-blank sermon note format (she thought you were supposed to provide your own answers, not use the ones the pastor gave out. I’ve begun to wonder what the point is of the fill in the blank? To keep folks awake? Make sure you bring your own pen? Is it a “participation” gimmick?

And, most importantly, how does the author decide what words ought to be “left out” to later be filled in? Here’s the blank fill-ins from this morning, in order:

loneliness comfort omnipresent attributes infinite
omnipotent omniscience omnipresent trinity
relates exactly immanent transcendent dwell
Gentile unbelievers eternity in cultivating acknowledge

Ultimately, the sermon was that God is always with you, therefore you’ll never be lonely, because what you’re experiencing (loneliness) is a lie . . . it’s not real.

And I can’t help but think — now hold on just a cotton pickin’ moment — why does this sermon not exhort those in attendance to “be with” and “befriend” others, to open up about our individual loneliness, to create community, to be the body of Christ — the presence of God — to each other and to the world? After the sermon, he did a lonely altar call (not a call to the altar, literally, but asked people who felt lonely to stand during the time of prayer) — what a perfect time to say “Hey — look around you — you’re not alone in your loneliness. Hey, church, look around — ask these folks at the coffee hour what you can do to ease their loneliness. Hey, lonely people — this is the perfect place to ask and receive what you need.”

But there wasn’t any of that. Just that we ought to “cultivate God’s presence” and “practice God’s presence in [our] lives.”

I’m not against praying throughout the day . . . (though I’m not sure God’s “omnipresence is applied by cultivating a consciousness of God’s presence at all times”), but I am pretty sure that Kingdom living is done, not alone, but in community.

* Yes, I know that this list is two Biblical Truths and a Principle. I’m only copying what was in the handout. They were on three different pages . . . the writer probably lost track of the wording through the outline.

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