16 November 2009

Alpha Retreat Sermon 4: How Can I Make the Most of the Rest of My Life?

This was the last sermon of the Alpha Retreat and it's also the last sermon recap I'll post for my Alpha Course series. Short and sweet.

So, Mr. Gumbel, what should we do with the rest of our lives? Gumbel starts by saying that we should break with the past and make a new start. We do this by no longer conforming to the pattern of the world.

Specifically he says the first thing is to be nice to people and be positive. Strangely, though, the second most important thing he mentions (and the one he spends the greater amount of time on) is to follow biblical sexual morality. Gumbel said that he's never heard of anyone saying "I wish I hadn't waited for my wedding night."

Obviously, he's been talking to the wrong people.

So how do we make the change to being anti real world? According to Gumbel, it's an act of will that requires sacrifice. We need to turn our whole bodies (our eyes, ears, mouths, hands - not to mention our noses, throats, and pancreases) over to God. We have to give him our sexuality ('natch), our time, our ambitions, and our money ('natch).

We do this because God has planned for our future and he loves us and has done a tremendous amount of sacrificing for us and is merciful. Gumbel reiterates that God loves us even more than any parent loves their children. Which is of course why he wants our money. Damn freeloading uberparents.

And that's it. All purpose and meaning in life boils down to believing in God; following a combination of vague, anal, and nitpicky rules given to you by your clergy because you think that means loving God; and letting the Holy Spirit guide your actions and thoughts.

Of course, by this point you know my opinion of all this, as it's getting more and more obvious the more immersed I'm getting into the culture. This is the mental equivalent of putting on a blindfold and running at top speed into a forest full of trees.

The session ended with the church elder (yes, the one I had the fight with) leading a very emotionally draining and heartfelt prayer along the lines of what Gumbel mentioned about giving over control of everything in your life to God. He talked about how he lost much in his life (career, money, etc.) and his trust in God pulled him through. He lead the group in pledging that they would turn over everything to God, going into excruciating detail into the body parts being listing (I can't remember if he turned over his fingernails to God, but it wouldn't have surprised me - it was a detailed list). He also pledged his family, his work, his house, his hopes, etc. There were a lot of tightly closed eyes and lots and lots of tears from the congregation. I just sat and observed.

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