I recently gave a sermon at a Greek Orthodox Church in Long Island last Sunday. I was commenting on not storing up treasures on earth but in heaven by actually practicing good works for our fellow man. The sermon was a semi-rant about our inability to form true relationships with others and idolizing the beautiful churches we build, as if bulding a massive church will be the defining act that will guarantee our entrance into heaven. Anyways, the sermon lasted about 18 minutes which got the attention of both the presiding priest and the people. There were two responses to my sermon:
1. People told me after that is was soooo moving and it hit a nerve. Others said I reminded them about the one time they actually gave something away. Others told me how much they thought this sermon was good for the people to hear. I was like "GAG!" Good Lord people! Wake up!. I didn't come to your church to preach to you so that you could tell me it was good. I mean, I wanted to tell some of them, "I know it's good, it's the Word of God, it has to be!" Really people, don't tell me it made you feel good. That's not the proper response. If a sermon exhorting you to do what the Gospel says, when you're not doing it, makes you feel good, then either you were not listening or someting is seriously wrong with you. I told people, "Don't tell me "good job" or "thank you." If you want to thank me, go out and do what I told you to do. I swear, I should go back there in a week and ask them if anyone visited the homeless, the sick, the suffering, and see what they'd say.
2. The second response from the presiding priest and janitor (of all people), was that it was too long. They promptly told me "the effective sermon should be between 6 and 10 minutes long." I HHAAAAATTTEE that homiletics crap! Sermons should not be simplified into a mere formula for getting the job done. The rationale for keeping them short is that one will lose the attention of the people. C'mon! Lets be serious. We watch TV for countless hours and have conversations with friends for just as many. We watch movies and listen to music, not to mention speeeches that go on forever. Chrysostom used to speak for 2 hours. So why, when it comes to speeches in the church, can we not tolerate more that 10 min for God's word? I think that the length of a sermon is not the issue; it is the content. If people are intrigued and fascinated by your sermon, the time will fly by. It's the same rationale that tells us to hurry up liturgy as well. We are catering to the laziness of our people and not to the spiritual hunger which they have. If they understand why they are in Church and truly feel like they participate, then the hours fly by, just as they do when we do any other activity we love. I'm just not sold on this time rule. Worship and faith is beyond time and space, and when we try to fit it into these things, it is then that we truly miss the point of the Gospel and the Kingdom of Heaven.