I was mostly listening in on a conversation.
And I couldn’t tell if it was taking place because she knew I was a pastor or if this was her typical way of addressing the children she was with.
She was a young woman, probably 25 or 26 years old; the children were school age, maybe 8, 10, and 14, would be my best guess. What was fascinating to me was her repeating what I would call wisdom sayings. Aphorisms is probably the correct term. (I’ll let you look that one up in your dictionary, if you want to correct me.)
It caught my attention because I had just been studying the book of James for a series of sermons I’ll be preaching in September. James is a book filled with aphorisms. It isn’t like any of the letters Paul wrote. It feels more like the book of Proverbs than anything else. As I was studying, I wondered how people hear those pithy sayings today and whether or not they connect with our daily lives.
And then this young woman spouts out a couple of things she has learned that she wants these young children to remember. “Your word is the only thing you can take to your grave,” she said. She then explained to the children that nothing else in life will last; so, it was essential for them to keep their word.
She also offered the observation that “God really will take care of you; all you have to do is trust him.” There was no explanation offered with that one, just a statement of fact aimed at the children followed by silence.
It was a curious conversation to be overhearing.
The children were not asking for information. They were not asking questions. She was simply offering answers to some of life’s most difficult circumstances.
They are the kinds of things I see repeated on Facebook as memes, not really a conversation. It made me wonder if she was a typical example of people her age and if I have been less than effective in my communication style because I don’t speak in those terms.
That’s when I began to wonder what would happen if I used that approach in my sermons. It would be a radical departure from my typical style, but I wondered what it would sound like and how people might respond.
Would this young woman find those sermons more interesting than what I normally say? Were the younger children really listening to and learning from her?
In the end, I decided not to change; but it was a curious exercise in paying attention to the people around me, something I know is critical to putting sermons together!