"Do you really believe that stuff?"
A friend asked me this about something he'd heard in church. You could ask the same question about these sermons.
The answer depends on what you mean by "believe." Do I believe that there is a literal Jesus person sitting on God's surely numb-by-now right hand? And that he is looking down on me, and all other Christians making sure nothing wrong happens?
No, I do not believe.
Do I believe the Universe is not some mysterious random happening, but that there is meaning and purpose beyond what we dream up. Yes, I believe. And I believe that a compassionate discipline based on the life and teaching of Jesus is a good way to find some of that meaning and purpose. It's a good way to live life so as not to end up feeling cheated, and like it was a waste. It can guide us into the presence of something so profound it can only be called "God."
Bad things do happen to good Christians... Jesus is not an insurance policy. Religion, and Christianity is used as an excuse to do all sorts of un-Christian and in-human things. Some of the nastiest people I know call themselves Christians. So do some of the most inspiring, gentle, real and wonderful people. Fundamentalism is a heresy, along with racism. Muslims and Buddhists and Jews and others will find God, too. You can't prove God by using science... although science has a hard time proving there is not some kind of transcendence. I like to read Phillip Adams. And no, I don't have anything like all the answers about anything!
A sermon is supposed to reach people where they are. It is supposed to turn them God-wards... that is, to open their life and emotions to greater depths than what's on TV, and to lift them above some of the worry of work and family. It is to enable them to become great.
So a sermon uses emotion, logic, imagery, humour... whatever the preacher thinks will communicate an aspect of the faith to the listener. Some congregations demand hard sermons, challenging their beliefs. Others want easy ones, and don't wish to be challenged in their comfort. You will find all sorts here... and based over at least a ten year period, in which my life has changed dramatically. Maybe you can work out the order they were preached, and what I did believe, and what I do believe! Good luck!
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