Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Shakespearean Monkeys and the Internet

Before each sermon I give the following prayer "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, take my lips and speak with them, take our minds and think with them, take our hearts and set them on fire."  After one worship service, one of the worshipers cam up to me and asked why I said the prayer.  In particular they noted the idea of having God think for us.  To them it sounded distinctly like surrendering free-will and perhaps not the best thing to be doing prior to listening to a sermon.  As I heard their comments I realized how what I said was/could be heard in a totally different way than what I intended.  Since then I have been struggling to either better articulate what I mean OR find a different way to pray.

Here is one attempt to articulate what I mean by this prayer ...

We have all likely heard the expression that is given X amount of time Y monkeys with typewriters can recreate the works of Shakespeare.  Since if you expand the time to infinite there are a lot of things monkeys can do, but how in the world do you ever figure out when they have produced something that is actually worthwhile.  Someone has to go through all the failed pages of total gibberish to find Hamlet.  This is where the Internet comes in ... and perhaps that Holy Spirit I was praying for early.

It seems to me that the Internet is basically the equivalent of monkeys banging on keyboards (I include myself in this grouping).  Sometimes we come up with Shakespeare and sometimes gibberish (much of the gibberish can be found in comment sections).  The hard part is filtering through the unending stream of data available on the Internet to find the good articles, tidbits, and thought provoking pieces that are out there without having our brains turn to mush in the process.  It takes a certain skill set to take data from all over, synthesize it and come up with new thoughts and ideas from it.  Some of us have this skill and some of us need help.

I think the same is true when it comes to sermons.  I spend all week thinking, reading, trolling Facebook, and generally trying to wrap my brain around some concept to preach about on Sunday morning.  I find connections between the news of the world, scripture passages, hymns we sing, events at church, and of course cute stories about my son or the silly things I have done in the past (those are always popular).  Once I package this all together into either a cohesive message or at least some sort of stream of thought, all of the people listening to my message end up doing the same thing.  The words that I say bring your mind to something you saw in a movie last night, or heard over dinner, or a memory from childhood.  The connections and possibilities are seemingly endless, but what it takes is something to tie things together.

"Take our minds and think with them"

This line of the prayer to me is not asking God to take away our free will, it is asking God to serve like the Pensieve from Harry Potter and make connections for us that otherwise would go unnoticed as we strain to sort through all the pages the monkeys (pastors) have been making on their typewriters.

Maybe we can make some great connections on our own, but I for one really appreciate when the Holy Spirit gives me a helping hand.  It makes sermon writing and blogging a lot easier, and I am sure those of you who have to read my writing and follow my train of thought could use some help too (or at least that is what Marianne tells me).