I'm particularly interested in the sermon because I'm a speaker... now, I've always wrestled with 'the word' being the central part of our gatherings... I don't mean that I think Scripture isn't central - I just always wondered why one person telling us what the 'word' was is the central part of our meetings. Not to mention that the sermon is often the most boring part of the meeting - the hardest to pay attention to and the biggest waste of time in a local leader's life in preparation, delivery and impact. Athough I often meet frustrated local 'pastors' who spend a significant amount of time in their week on the 'sermon' I rarely meet people who have been converted through 'the word'. It's almost always the impact a person makes in their real life.... not a half-hour to hourly time of exegesis... actually, if I'm honest I rarely meet people who can remember 'the word' a few days later. For those salvationists out there you may want to get ahold of William Booth's How To Preach and give it a quick read - it's likely to blow you away!! ;-)
Apparently the practice of a 'speech' or 'sermon' was borrowed from the Greek sophists who were masters at oratory and rhetoric. These were also intimately connected to entertainment... It was when Constantine brought in the church buildings enmasse and connected with the establishing of the 'clergy' or professional christian leader the sermon began to take on a much bigger and more important role. Up until that time of course Christianity was something lived out in the everyday... it wasn't a 'theory' or an abstract principle it was about how one lived their whole lives (think Judaism).
Actually a friend and I were just discussing how in the Hebrew culture everything is much more rooted in community and experience - for example all the feasts and sacrifices etc.. were all hard to do - every family having to make a journey and slaughter their own animals and the feasts like passover and even the feast of tabernacles (where you build a make shift house to remind them of the time in the wilderness etc...) it's all very hands on. I remember getting ready for passover one year and inviting a few cell groups over to our house to rid it of 'yeast'. It was incredible. First, who knew how many things have yeast in them??? and second, what an unforgettable experience about the reality of sin and how to get it out of our lives and the cost involved in it etc... it was incredible. Better than any meeting on passover I'd ever been too. Way better than any sermon I've ever heard.
Anyway, I'm not sure how we managed to turn a community focused, equality driven, everyday life living movement into a professionalized, sermonizing ritual that makes both halves of your body go to sleep... but we did. Now, can speaking be useful? yes of course. have I been impacted by sermons. Yes of course. Do I give them? Yes. Are they central to my faith? No, absolutely not.
This post is a little long... I'll follow it up in a bit... needless to say in order to grow up in Christ I need more than already been chewed food (the sermon) and a mind numbing weekly ritual... I need Christ in me the hope of glory - I need the reality of the everyday being infused with living water and hope and light and peace... I need Jesus to show up in everything, all the time - revealing the great adventure he's set me on...