Good Candidate for Worst Sermon Ever

Good Candidate for Worst Sermon Ever May 21, 2013

The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, preached a sermon in Venezuela about seeing the glory of others. In the course of her sermon, she says what I think is the strangest and stupidest thing I have ever  heard/read for a sermon. In her sermon, she recalls Acts 16 and the story about the demon-possessed slave girl who prophesied. This is what Jefferts Schori has to say:

There are some remarkable examples of that kind of blindness in the readings we heard this morning, and slavery is wrapped up in a lot of it.  Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling the world that he and his companions are slaves of God.  She is quite right.  She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves. But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness.  Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it.  It gets him thrown in prison.  That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so!  The amazing thing is that during that long night in jail he remembers that he might find God there – so he and his cellmates spend the night praying and singing hymns.

I know that St. Paul is the heinous villain of liberal Protestantism, but really, really, who believes such a tortured reading!

As Cyprian said: Nec episcopus computari potest, qui evangelica et apostolica traditione contempta.

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  • Pete Greenwood

    Awesome. Almost as good as Francis McNab saying that ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’ means ‘we reach out to become better humans’.

  • “Tortured reading” is kind. It is open blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. If this can’t get you excommunicated from the church, I don’t know what can.

  • OK, was that a quote from a first year theology essay?

  • Patrick

    Par for the course in some Christian circles. Too many simply do not respect the narrative as truth, so we tend to “explain” with varied ideas what it must mean to fit the chic idea of the day.

    I mainly see this with the OT text because the church is so ignorant of it.

  • Donna Carlaw

    She’s a leftist who was preaching Marxist liberation theology in a country that is experiencing more and more of what extreme leftism does to a people. I wonder what the Venezuelans thought of her message. Maybe they can use copies of it for toilet paper. Of course, Chavez was heavily involved in Santeria. We are living in interesting times. Very strange, but not surprising.

  • James Dowden

    I wonder whether censored lectionaries have played a part in this. Remove all the harsh-sounding readings, and one is left with only pathetically tendentious hooks to hang the sort of preaching that covers a vast range of human emotion on.

  • David Morris

    I nominate this cracker from Alan Bennett. He works wonders with the text: “My brother Esau is an hairy man, but I am a smooth man”.—eGk

  • Without wishing to be a hermeneutical bore, I think there is quite an important methodological issue at stake here too. What she is offering is a ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’, reading against the grain of the text–which is pretty common at eg SBL each year. I remember Tina Pippin talking about Revelation two years ago: ‘Don’t you just wanna scrape the words off the parchment?’ she spat with some venom. This is for me why Ricoeur is so important in insisting on a hermeneutic of retrieval, which takes with equal seriousness the perspective of the text.

  • JD

    I have to admit that the liberal hatred for Paul rather makes my blood boil. In my experience ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ Christians are the most self-righteous as they arrogantly assume they know better, and are spiritually and morally superior to the one man, of all men, who bravely and boldly obeyed the call upon him to preach the Good News to the gentiles. Where would we be without Paul?

    Sure Paul was not perfect but he very well knew it. He admits to being ‘the least of all’. He was zealous in his Pharisaic days, and God did not want to tame that zealousness. He remained zealous for Christ. No one has been more devoted to Christ-likeness than St Paul. He took seriosuly Jesus’ command to ‘take up your cross and follow me’. 2 Corinthians 11 reveals the extraordinary lengths he was prepared to go to spread the name of Christ. Would ECUSA, champions of Christianity-lite, go to the same lengths?

  • Kris

    Her understanding of the text is misguided at best, but at least she was attempting in some weak way to use the text as an example of showing love. I think it is a greater misuse when people use the Bible to promote hate. If you are going to err at least err on the side of love.

  • Christopher StClair II

    Erring on the side of love is preferring her to remain enslaved to both a demon and the men who were exploiting her condition? Whatever else you say, this woman’s interpretation doesn’t just go against the grain of the text, it is entirely ignorant of the text. This preacher did not err on the side of love but on the side of undermining Paul so as to undermine his writings and theology.

  • Sumit Sen

    That is the kind of radical-post-colonial reading done by Dube on Jesus encounter with the Samaritan woman. I agree that we our experience to the interpretation of scripture. But how much is enough before it starts to distort our reading?