One thing you should know about me is that I do not like making choices. I despise meal planning because I have to make choices about what we will eat night after night after night. I much prefer shopping online where I can read reviews of what other people have to say about clothing items before I buy them. It’s a running joke in our family that you don’t ask me where to go out to dinner.
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In the past few years, many companies have sprung up to solve my problem (so I can only assume other people have the same issue too, right?). The concept is that you don’t have to make a choice because it is someone else’s job to do that for you. So, for example you can subscribe to Stitch Fix and a personal stylist will send you five items of clothing with style cards containing examples of how to wear them knowing only your general tastes and measurements. Or when subscribed to Blue Apron, you’ll get a box of refrigerated food set at your front door with recipes requiring minimal preparation and absolutely nothing out of your pantry. There are now hundreds of subscription boxes for almost everything - makeup, kid’s learning activity kits, jewelry, snacks, dog-specific items, wine, even Christian-themed boxes (with a devotional).
The idea is that these companies are offering you a service and charging a premium because they are doing it better than you or I could. This isn’t going into Target and throwing some shirts in the cart, what you get to try on in your own home should be fashion forward and figure flattering. You won’t be eating bean and cheese burritos, you’ll have step-by-step directions with pictures to serve Crispy Catfish with Yellow Curry & Bird's Eye Chile Sauce. And it’s also fun to be surprised!
Recently, I thought about Sunday morning’s sermon in light of my love of these subscription services.
As a mom, it can be hard to go to church. I have three little people I’m responsible for on Sunday mornings. Sometimes one of them will stay in the nursery so on my easiest day, I am still keeping two other little people quiet and trying to encourage them to participate in the service to the best of their abilities. I look forward to writing a post on kids in the service and even getting to church on Sundays, but this one is going to be real specific, about the sermon and about you (moms!).
So, why did I think about sermons like Stitch Fix? Three similarities jumped out at me.
Similarity One - I don’t have to pick anything (and that's good!).
Just like I can’t usually say what brand and pattern of a shirt I want, I’m not in any way responsible for what is preached at my church. I just show up. On my own, I may start a great Bible study but then stop it to start something else when I want to change. When you are in a life stage that involves getting little sleep and little people requiring a lot of your energy and attention, consistency is not something you’re going to excel at. Having the consistency in what you’re hearing each Sunday is a blessing in disguise when everything else feels like chaos.
As a pastor’s wife, I know how much work goes into a sermon on a Sunday morning. This is where that “expert” factor comes in similar to those subscription boxes curated by stylists and chefs. On Sunday mornings, someone else has done the heavy lifting of around 30 hours of study and research that I didn't have the time to do. He is then prayerful and pretty thoughtful about how to deliver it to the people he knows in an attempt to re-focus our attention on what Christ has done for us and how we should live in light of that reality.
Similarity Two - I have the opportunity to peek ahead (and in this case, it’s so helpful!)
One fun part of the subscription box is that you can peek ahead and see what’s in the mail before it arrives. You are either in the “no surprises” camp or “always surprises” camp so to some people this isn't a thing, but I always peek.
I don’t care if you secretly hope for a surprise party every year in the weeks leading up to your birthday - if you have little kids sitting with you, if you’re easily distracted, if you’re not a morning person, if you want to get more out of a sermon - I highly recommend you peek ahead on the sermon text.
I heard Nancy Guthrie recommend this practice of reading the sermon text prior to Sunday morning in reference to Romans 12:2, which says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” By saturating yourself with the Scripture text, you’re going to be in a place where you can more easily be transformed by the Word of God.
I have been reading the text ahead of time and I've seen such an improvement in my comprehension. If I have to leave the auditorium to take the preschooler on a potty break or the kindergartner asks me a question, it is easier to jump back into the text the pastor is preaching from because I’m already familiar with it.
Similarly, listening to the sermon after the fact can also be so helpful as we are seeking to be renewed instead of conformed (Romans 12:2 again). If I have a Sunday where I was in and out of the sermon a lot or wasn’t able to go to church at all because someone was sick, we can (usually) still access sermons shortly after they are preached online to listen again while we fold laundry or do the dishes.
Similarity Three - I can share the experience with others (which will strengthen our bond!).
There is an automatic connection that forms through the subscription boxes with people who have never even met. They post pictures on Instagram of the dinner they created and can quickly see everyone else who had the same thing perhaps only a day apart but on the other side of the country. People post pictures in their clothing and ask others in private Facebook groups to give advice on if they should keep the items or not.
On Sunday mornings, we are sitting in a room with a bunch of other people, all listening to the same God-breathed text of Scripture and then the exposition of the Word in community. Even if we don’t have very much in common in any natural ways, we share the connection of being adopted children of God. It's like an easy book club, you read the same text of Scripture, listened to the same sermon, so then it's natural to talk about it. This is the stuff good friendships are built on - the real stuff, not the small talk and comparison games that often take place with moms. These conversations can also strengthen the relationships of those who you share a house with - your spouse and your kids.
Although I wish I could subscribe to all the boxes, cook amazing meals without ever going to a grocery store and have a fashionable wardrobe; right now, I have to settle for trying to get through the week with everyone fed and in clean clothes.
Moms, the sermon on Sunday mornings is an opportunity we already have right in front of us week in and week out to hear God speak to us that we don't always take full advantage of. This is my encouragement to you (and myself) to try it out and see what happens.