Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Worship in a second language

I know that this blog is called, "What's not in the sermon." but as it turns out I recently wrote a couple of sermons. This is something I did not anticipate doing while on sabbatical/leave of absence.

Since Joe moved here he has been really welled cared for by his co-teacher Grace, who is Christian and who worships at a non-denominational church called Neulsarang (which means always love, I think). Although this congregation boasts over 1000 members, they have an English worship service in English, to which about 15 people come on a good day. Grace is involved with the service and invited Joe. He was the first non-Korean to attend, although the regular preacher is Korean-Canadian. So Naomi and I arrived and began to go as well, alternatively with the Mennonite church.

For me, the initial draw was proximity (it's about 15 minutes away as opposed to 50 or more) and that it's in English, which the Mennonite service is not. I'm not even sure what theology they profess. The services follow this formula: worship songs with recorded music and lyrics on power point (some of these I knew, some not), a prayer by one of the members - usually in Korean, the Apostles Creed, offering during which we sing 'All to Jesus I Surrender', the sermon, and finally the Lord's Prayer. It's starting to grow on me, although I can't say I affirm everything in the Apostles Creed and we sing the same songs most Sundays.

What I do love about this place is that the few people who are there are there every Sunday. They are so committed to this service. And they are so happy when our family is there. They are sweet and generous and loving. Since they knew that I'm a pastor I was asked to step in and preach when Elmo (that's really his name) the usual preacher went back to Canada for a wedding. I said yes, but what to preach on?? There's no committee, they don't follow a lectionary. Elmo's sermon's are always topical and always about one's personal relationship with God. (eg. "How to deal with criticism") But I'm a Bible preacher and I'd been missing Jesus, so I ended up preaching on Jesus' first public adddress. Luke 4:14ff, when Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah and goes on to be rejected by his hometown.

It's an interesting challenge to prepare a sermon for non-native English speakers. My congregation in Seattle is educated and well read and I'm familiar with the culture and references of that community. I draw on all of that when I preach. I use big words and big ideas. I make leaps and draw connections. I was unsure of how to do any of that in this context. But this gracious community welcomed my efforts (see here) and told me that they understood about 80%. Not bad.

Joe took some pictures of me preaching. Here and here.

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