I enjoy listening to Rabbis give sermons. Sometimes I think they are well done and other times not. This is not surprising and probably true of most members of any given congregation. Still, I think that sometime we lose sight of the fact that we, as listeners, also have a responsibility.
My father was a congregational Rabbi for 50 years. He told me that there was always one congregant who would greet him by telling him what a wonderful sermon he gave. Dad knew that there were times this was not the case but this individual would say otherwise. He was not trying to make fun of my dad. He was making the comment in all seriousness. This man also was a very intelligent man, so it was not as if it had to be a simplistic sermon either.
The individual in question had a knack to listen to a sermon and always find something in it that applied to him, that he could use. My father’s sermons actually helped make this individual a better man because he was always able to come away with a lesson that applied to him.
This is really the challenge that each one of us has. It is often to easy to decide a message does not apply to you, or does not make sense. It is too easy to criticize the construction of a sermon or the delivery of one. There are so many places where we can be critical. Our challenge is to find a way to make every sermon speak to us. It can be done.
I am not as talented as my father’s congregant but I do always try to take something away from a sermon, something that will make me a better person. Most days I think I do find important messages to use.