That line from a post by BTM (who will be in Watkinsville with Red Mountain Music on March 29-30) got me thinking:
If there's a trend to whatever criticism we get at Christ Church (and thankfully there's not that much of it these days), it's that our message - and particularly my preaching - can feel dark and heavy sometimes.
My knee-jerk response (you might call it the Gammons Syndrome) is to say, 'Fiddlesticks.' Only because I know where we end up every week in our worship gathering, coming to the table and clinging to an infinitely valuable and all-satisfying Jesus and finding a joy that can only be found through allowing life to bubble to the surface - and make of it what you will, but whether you come top-down from the Scriptures or bottom-up from life, what you end up with is rarely as smiley and cleaned up as we try to make it in the suburbs.
Once I work my way through gut reactions and such, my assumption is that there's a breakdown in the message at one of two points (and maybe both). There's the distinct possibility that in my preaching of a biblical text, I've missed the tone and bent of the message - which to be honest, is just as critical as getting your exegesis and interpretation squared away. You shouldn't preach any text indifferently but you should breathe out the emotion that's latent within the text. So even though I've got more than my fair share of junk, I'm generally thankful to be able to see how God is using that slowly in my life to teach me to delight in trusting him in all things. So while I could just be in a funk and end up in a dark place every Sunday, I'm not wired to be that way and I work hard to avoid whatever is there that might move me away from the tone of the text.
So it could be my preaching. But what I keep finding is that the people who are the most fussy about dark and heavy things are the people who have some really dark and heavy things to deal with. Stuff about themselves; stuff they've done or are doing; stuff that's been or is being done to them. I know a lot of people's junk and while those things don't consume me, I'd be a jerk to walk into a room and know what I know and not walk with people through that on the way to Christ and the cross.
I won't pretend to know a lot. I do know that dark and heavy things are alive and well in Watkinsville and Athens and on the UGA campus. I know that darkness isn't a strategy - we don't make junk up just to make things feel weighty. That would be both cruel and stupid - tying an anchor to someone's ankle and tossing them into an ocean of hopelessness is sadistic; painting in unnecessary strokes of dark and doubt is pretty foolish in our sunshiney-obsessed suburban world...unless underneath our thin veneer of 'got it all together' is more doubt and disappointment and confusion and rage than we'd ever want anyone to know.
So whatever we are - and I love how someone described our church recently as a people and a place of brokenhearted joy - hopefully the cross and a deepening experience of Christ creates a place of risky authenticity and radical hope.