This past Sunday, I shared an extended quote from Sean Mortenson’s excellent May 29 sermon at Redemption Scottsdale, “An Invitation to Honesty.” You can listen to the sermon HERE, or on the PODCAST, and read some follow-up thoughts from Sean HERE.
Quite a few people asked if I would share the quote, so here goes:
Is the church a place where people can say, “I’m not OK” and work through it?
We say that we value honesty, but we like it better if the wrestling a person is doing is something that happened in the past and people are now sharing honestly about something that is resolved. Present-tense honesty can be a little bit messy and we don’t tend to like that very much.
We say we value honesty, but really only as long as it’s filtered and sanitized and inspirational in some way—which is hardly honesty at all. Sometimes honesty has rough edges and even bad words.
We say that we value honesty, but not if it touches on subjects that make us uncomfortable.
We say that we value honesty, but only if it can be immediately spun for the positive—and we’re often ready with platitudes to do the spinning for people: “It just means God has something better for you,” we say to the person suffering loss.
The church has too often created a narrow spectrum of acceptable expression on acceptable topics. We’ve largely removed any oxygen for things like doubt or waiting or wrestling or lament or mystery or even unfiltered, unhinged praise. We want our songs to be positive and encouraging and we want certainty in our dogmas and we want action steps in our sermons and we want “God is so good!” on the smiling lips of every person we see at church on Sunday morning.
But the truth is that the Psalms expose our folly. The Psalms critique our narrowing of acceptable expression. Sometimes in the Psalms we find expressions that make us want to say, “Shhhh…you can’t say that in church.” But here we have it in the Psalms. And this is God’s word, meeting us in our humanity, giving us words for our condition, and teaching us how to relate to him.