One Email Made Me Rethink My Sermons

overwhelm Jun 07, 2024
Minister thoughtfully reads a congregant's email. People cope with overwhelming situations in different ways. Recognizing our unconscious behaviors can help us navigate life's challenges

Near the end of April, I received an email from a congregant of the church I now serve expressing discomfort with my Easter sermon. A month had passed, but they were still thinking about my message. Not in a good way. On the surface, they were upset with the content and did not feel it was appropriate for the children in the audience. And I'm sympathetic to their point. I did, in fact, talk about the “crucifixions” still happening around the world and said, in many situations, we're stuck at Good Friday, unable to move on to the hope of Easter. So, my congregant had a point. 

But as the email continued, they mentioned it'd been tough to listen to many of my recent sermons because of their “grit” and found that the sermons increased their stress and anxiety about the state of the world. In response, they retreated and skipped church for the entire month of April. 

As a minister, I get all kinds of emails, good and bad. But some I pay more attention to than others, and this email was important on a couple of levels. First, I like this person, and I respect them. They are level-headed and thoughtful. They'd spent time thinking about what had bothered them and while they admitted to wanting to hear “sunshine and rainbows” at church to balance out the negativity of the world, I trusted them enough to examine my own behavior. 

What I found was that a good number of my more recent sermons had focused on the “grit” of our situation and called for people to take action before it was too late. It would have been easy for me to defend my position. We are, in fact, facing some of the most serious challenges in living memory. And we do need to take action. But what I saw was two people responding differently to the great and pervasive feeling of overwhelm so many of us are wrestling with in the world today. 

Overwhelm can feel like a tidal wave and in the face of it, people respond so differently. Where my congregant retreated. I ranted. What I appreciated most about this email was the opportunity to see myself and to get in touch with how my own sense of feeling overwhelmed was causing me to act. 

To be clear, I am not saying retreating from the very serious issues we are facing is the answer. But being cognizant of how overwhelm is impacting each of us is incredibly important, particularly when it is unconscious and therefore controlling our behaviors from the shadows. 

This is the first of a series of letters I hope to write to you, exploring the nature of overwhelm in our modern lives, and how we can help each other navigate it safely and effectively. But I'd love for this to be a conversation, not just me pontificating into the ether. So, if you're willing, write me back. 

I’m interested in knowing how you deal with the overwhelm of the world. Do you retreat? Do you rant? Do you respond in another way? Particularly if you can identify any areas of your life being impacted by a sense of unacknowledged overwhelm controlling you from the shadows of the unconscious. 

Send me an email and let me know

  • How you react to feeling overwhelmed?
  • Can you see any areas of your life that might be impacted my unacknowledged overwhelm?

P.S. here is the link to my Easter Sermon, “The Be-coming of the Christ,” if you feel like listening. I'd love to know what you think.

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