Thoughts on another preacher’s sermon…

Today was the closing worship service at the Presbyterian Youth Triennium. This is a denominational youth event of both the PCUSA (the denomination I serve) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Churches. It takes place every three years at Purdue University in the heat of summer. I have been to every Triennium since 1998 and hope to keep coming back for many more years. I love this event, and this was a good conference. Triennium connects youth and adults to other youth and adults in the wider church and reminds us of how we belong to each other despite our differences.

In that light, the preaching at Triennium over the years is a window into our differences and our commonality. Each year, I connect with one or two of the sermons, and one or two of them leave me wondering what it was all about. And then I talk to youth from my congregation or adults from across the wider church, and they inevitably connect to a different sermon than I did. It reminds me that in a room of 5,000 people, there is not one preacher who will appeal to everyone. There is not one preacher we could find who wouldn’t offend someone with something they would say.

I don’t expect I will ever preach to 5,000 people at once, but when I preach in worship to 150 people in the congregation I serve, I often manage to say something that doesn’t sit well with someone.

I bring all this up because the closing sermon today was not a neutral one. I did not preach it. Nor was I involved in the planning of it, but from sitting in the auditorium, I can surmise that the preacher, Claudio Carvalhaes, did not want to preach a neutral “let me appeal to everyone” kind of sermon.

He walked on stage with his back to the audience. He was wearing a hoodie. When he took off the hoodie and turned around, he was wearing a Lucha Libre mask and cape. He wore it for 95% of the sermon before he threw it in the crowd. It was performance art as sermon.

photo by Joann Lee

photo by Joann Lee

And then he preached in important message about our connectedness. He did not shy away from politics. He was not subtle about how he connected the gospel to the political realities of our day. (Here is the link to the sermon.)

If you are skilled in the ways of Twitter, I encourage you to read through the comments about the sermon. (#PYT13 should find most of them). Because some people LOVED this sermon. And other people wanted to walk out.

And if you are a Presbyterian, you will likely be hearing about this sermon. Some people will use it to talk about what is right in the church. And others will use it to illustrate how we are on a fast track to hell. (See comments below to illustrate my point.)

Which gets me back to what I love about the Presbyterian Youth Triennium. We are liberal. We are conservative. We are social justice. We are whatever the opposite of that is.

And so if you loved his sermon, great. I hope it inspired you to really be the change you want to see in the world. And then consider how you can reach out and have a conversation with the people who were offended by it.

If you hated his sermon, think about how or why it connected with others and ask if there is a way you could meet in the middle somehow?

It is unfortunate that a sermon that strong (for good or bad) was the last thing at Triennium. Because those conversations will be harder to have now that we who experienced it aren’t in the same place.

I hope the only thing people remember from the sermon is not that he wore a mask and said “shit”. I hope even the people who hated the sermon will have heard the Gospel proclaimed to them in some way. Because I heard some important words in the midst of the spectacle that was that sermon. About how we have to stay connected, in all we do, to Jesus Christ. About how we have to support and help each other along the way. About how the Gospel of Jesus Christ should cause us to see the world around us differently.

And I really hope people will remember that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is not, and should not be, in the habit of vetting or editing the sermons of people who preach at their conferences. (I am not in the position to speak for the Cumberlands about this).

When a preacher gets in the pulpit, they are not answering to the people who invited them to preach, or to the personnel committee, or to anyone other than the Holy Spirit. There might be consequences. I don’t deny that preachers have been fired because of their sermons.

But, ultimately, when God gives you a Word, you have to proclaim it. Now I’m not equating Claudio with the prophet Jeremiah, exactly. That is between him and God. But I think of these words from Jeremiah when I have to preach a Word I don’t necessarily want to proclaim.

From Jeremiah 20:7-9

O Lord, you have enticed me,
and I was enticed;
you have overpowered me,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughing-stock all day long;
everyone mocks me.
For whenever I speak, I must cry out,
I must shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’
For the word of the Lord has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say, ‘I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name’,
then within me there is something like a burning fire
shut up in my bones;
I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.

Maybe this passage from Jeremiah explains why Claudio preached such a strong sermon. Maybe it was burning his bones and needed to be said. I hope he’ll reflect on that.

But, if you didn’t like his sermon, that’s fine. There was plenty in it for a Preaching class to discuss for weeks.

But I hope we will keep it in context for what it was–one of five sermons preached this week by one of five faithful preachers who answered the call to preach at Triennium. I am thankful for all five of them and for the reminder they give us that we are a catholic (small ‘c’) church. That word means “according to the whole” (see, Beth Johnson, I still use my Greek!) and reminds us that the way any one of us proclaim the gospel is just a piece of the story. We are an “according to the whole” kind of church and today’s sermon, for all of it’s emotion and drama, was just one piece of the whole.

I am thankful for this Presbyterian Youth Triennium and for all who worked so hard to make it happen. I’m thankful for the way I heard the Gospel proclaimed in worship (through preaching, music, and drama) and for the way I saw it lived out in Small Groups, at recreation events, and during free time. This event was about much more than a guy in a mask. Let’s not lose sight of that.

59 thoughts on “Thoughts on another preacher’s sermon…

  1. Marcie, thanks so much for this. A very helpful word. My son was blowing up texting me about the sermon. The upside was I found out he has strong analytical abilities. Downside is the Nacho Libre mask might have prevented the Gospel being heard! Wish it would have been you bringing the Word.


    • I had the same reaction as your son whilst hearing this very different type of sermon. There were many things that I thought were not appropriate to say in such a setting. However, after reading this, Marcie, I can understand a little more of what he was trying to get across.


    • Have to jump in to say it’s Lucha Libre, not Nacho Libre. Lucha Libre is a genre of masked wrestling centered in Latin America. Nacho Libre was a Jack Black film that made fun of it (and some people were offended by that film).


  2. Thank you for this reflection! It is hard to remember to try and find Christ in a message that may get our emotions churning.


  3. i do think it represents everything that’s wrong with the church and frankly, religion as a whole. it was arrogant, it was judgmental as well as hypocritical. His bitterness didn’t help his presentation and it was more of a show than a sermon. It was all about him and his center stage act. His rigid interpretation of Total Depravity is a huge turn off. Telling everyone that theyre the problem. That we need to be fixed. This implies that we are all broken. Again classis Christianity of telling people they are broken and inherently evil, and that they are the only way out. It’s an abhorrent way to look at the word and people and is a dangerous viewpoint that has helped lead to so much lunacy and destruction. I hope the the of the church sees this as a clear stain of embarrassment. This sums up why non-belief is at all time high in America. If this is the face of the church, another dark age is ahead. we’ve got some work to do.


    • having said that. we should use this as a tool to realize what we may be drifting towards, and to steer away asap if we want to make progress. We must learn from things like this and must turnout and make better. We cannot keep doing the same song and dance of judgement and hypocrisy. We have to change and become the inclusive, tolerant and progressive church of hope that i know we can be.


    • In my respectful opinion, that is exactly the opposite of what his message was. Pastor Claudio’s bitterness, as you call it, allowed his true passion to show through. His unorthodox presentation kept everyone interested, and he didn’t say that we were the problems. He said that there were problems, and it was our fault if they weren’t fixed, because we have the ability to fix them. And Pastor Claudio never said we were evil! He repeatedly said (and we said too) that we were “branches of the Jesus tree.” A Jesus trunk is pure goodness. Even if we are branching off a little, we are still part of the Jesus tree, and therefore we have the ability and capacity for goodness.
      Furthermore, when he pulled the “branches” on stage and we sang to them, we all shouted at the top of our lungs that we loved them. And my interpretation of our singing Fix You was to show that we would do our best to make them see that they are beautiful, wonderful, imperfectly perfect children of God who are worthy of love and happiness, because when we have trouble and problems, that is the only thing we can do.
      I hope the church posts a video of his sermon every possible place, because in my opinion it is the greatest sermon I have ever heard, and to quote my favourite author, John Green, “[s]ometimes you read a book and it fills you with this evangelical zeal and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless all living humans read the book.” It would seem that the same goes for sermons, sometimes.
      Even if you regard the bible and religion as more of a set of guidelines on how to live than the Truth, you should still appreciate this sermon for its different viewpoints and originality. I know that I did.
      Sorry, but I had to respond. Without the intention of repeating myself, I feel like this sermon should be seen and heard by everyone everywhere, and I can’t imagine my faith without this sermon. I was a completely different person before, and I am a completely different person now. I hope I haven’t offended you, but it is not often that I feel this passionately about a subject with real value, and I hope you will take into consideration what I said.


      • Sarah…I feel the need to respond to you! This sermon was a disgrace to the Presbyterian and all faiths. At the end Claudio said “I will fix you!” We are all flawed and need to be forgiven for our sinful nature but God Himself is the only answer. I did not hear that all week!
        Using a story that media has blown out of proportion to grandstand for his political beliefs was not what Jesus would do.
        I do agree with you on one thing. This sermon should be heard by all so that our congregations can see what our youth were exposed to this week and then discuss it with them. That would give them an opportunity to speak some truth from the gospel which was lost behind the drama and self serving agenda of Claudio.


      • Thank you, all, for your comments. I would ask you to consider that because you don’t approve of something doesn’t make it a ‘disgrace’. I hope we can speak of our disagreements without name calling.


  4. Thank you for your immediate, thoughtful reflection! I was “disturbed” by the sermon, but on the ways that I hope I will be disturbed when I enter into worship- from complacency, from the expected, from just hearing what I already believe. I imagine this sermon took deep listening and spiritual guts to preach.


    • Marci thank you for this reflection on a powerful sermon. Katie, you took the words out of my mouth. I too was “disturbed.” I texted with my clergy friends throughout it, but I did lean forward and ask one of my favorite pk’s from First, Boise what he thought midway through. He said with a smile, “I think it’s really cool.”

      At the time I thought the preacher was quite insulting to the teens in the room. I understand why some leaders took their youth groups out during the sermon. I stayed out of respect to the preacher (who at the time I had no idea who it was having missed the graphic on his name – we were 4th row side with the screen straight above us).

      I am glad to be in a church where preachers get to preach. I appreciate Rev. Bre Ryan for helping me understand the sermon on the bus ride back to Detroit


      • I believe there were some who had to leave in order to get to airports on time, not necessarily because of the sermon.


      • Right! That’s what so difficult about it. While I was sitting there with my mouth open and gasping with my friend whispering “this is so not okay,” my other friend was sitting there feeling inspired. I’m just still not sure if this kind of venue was the one where a sermon like this should’ve been tested out…


  5. The word of God is alive and active, sharper than a 2-edged sword… It pierces to even dividing soul and spirit ,joints and narrow, it judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart… Hebrews 12. Today it was indeed alive!! Hallelujah!


  6. I think many things about the sermon that would take a good long time to sort out. I do think you make a tremendous point about the placement of the sermon. The sermons are a part of a massive event – they are not the event. And it is a youth event – not an adult preacher event. By that I don’t mean we shouldn’t have adult preachers, I just think at the end of the day my remembrances of this or any Triennium are not going to be a particular preacher. They are going to be of particular youth doing things that are funny and amazing and inspirational and tell a different story about where are church is then we usually tell. One tiny technical comment: I wish that the order would have been flipped and the Benediction would have come before the youth drama teams final rap. I would have loved for the last voice to echo through the Hall of Music to been that of those young people saying, “I Am!”


  7. As a healthy NYC liberal, i was floored today. But, then I realized that I got what I wanted. What I had actually been asking for. Too often I have said that there is too much about the church that is predictable, known and even (sometimes) unmiraculous. I know that this was distasteful to some. A poor choice. A show. Great — let’s usher in some really uncomfortable debate and be grateful for having been rocked off of our center. How uncomfortable were Jesus’s followers? Let’s get uncertain together — not just in small group but in the big group of life. I am grateful to be in a church that struggles, fails and keeps on walking.


  8. Walking backward on the stage, dressed in a hoodie…You left out the bit that he said he was Trayvon Martin, that Trayvon was killed because of his race, that the justice system failed, that “we” should feel guilty. The youth should join the occupy movement. Wealth should be redistributed. We need more food stamps.
    These are highly charged things to say. . Compounding it, the timing of its delivery did not allow the youth to discuss the issues raised and their intricacies. We are disappointed that the final message was wrapped in a political agenda. Our son did have a wonderful time, at Triennium and he knows enough to stand up against the liberal agenda when he hears it.


    • Some of our delegation’s liberals were offended that the last message insulted their more politically conservative friends who they had made in their small groups at Triennium.


    • Amen to this response. To leave our kids with this message, a one-sided message, was totally inappropriate. I was offended. We didn’t hear anything but an angry rant. A wonderful Christian event such as Triennium should not be a platform for someone’s political agenda, regardless of whether he is a pastor.


  9. I hope he does post it. He posts a lot so it’s possible. Claudio is coming straight from Triennium to the Synod of Lakes and Prairies Synod School tomorrow where he will be our convocation speaker Monday-Friday. I’m facilitating a class that will give folks a chance to “debrief” his keynote addresses. I have a WONDERFUL experience of his teaching and preaching when he and I were (unrelated) guests at a Milwaukee Presbytery meeting. Thanks for your words and thoughts about not editing or censoring any preacher’s sermons. It’s just not our way.


  10. A very unfortunate way to end a terrific event. It was only my second Triennium and maybe Tony Campolo raised the bar too high. We don’t need preachers on either end of the political ideology using the pulpit to spew their personal political agendas; especially when they “preach” that if you don’t see an issue from the same viewpoint as them you are unchristian, a racist, wrong. Just because someone causes anger in their sermon doesn’t mean they are preaching God’s word. Sometimes it means they are so vehement in their own position they aren’t leaving a quiet space for God to talk. Preachers aren’t infallible, and shouldn’t be considered so. For every young person who is lauding the indignation, there are probably two handfuls you turned off you will never hear from. More like Tony in future please.


  11. Thank you for posting this. I was at Triennium and it’s not that I hated the sermon. I just think a lot of his statements made me lose what he was really trying to get across because I really didn’t agree with some of the things he said. But I am glad that our denomination is so open that we truly have freedom of speech. I love that you brought up that we are a catholic church because I really feel like this week was about being connected in order to be a part of the whole. Thank you for helping get the heart of the message through to those of us who had a harder time hearing it.


  12. Wow I am excited to talk to my daughter who attended about this. What an awesome way for these kids to grow in their faith and understanding. Being Presbyterian is not a comfortable religion. I do not believe we are doing it right if we don’t disagree at times because we need to be grappling in our hearts for the truth of what God wants for us and the greater church. How fitting that he wore a wrestling mask. Can’t wait to discuss this sermon with our delegation.


  13. With so many diverse people comes many political views and though I agreed with Claudio’s politics, others did not. I felt extremly uncomfortable surround by some clapping and others whispering “how can he say this?” I hated how EVERY preacher brought up the trial. I know if my politics were different (more conservative) that I would feel like the preachers were forcing there own beliefs on me and that I don’t have the right to think for myself. Lastly I though he was being extreme in saying to be a Christian you need to read your bible each day and pray at least 3 times a day, though this can be a goal, I believe through living my live with Christian values and caring for others if I don’t open my bible tomorrow or only pray once that doesn’t make me a bad Christian.


  14. I am so thankful for your post. I could feel myself shutting down from the very first, and forced myself to keep listening. As one of the adults from our Presbytery, I LOVED that he told the kids it was their responsibility to read their Bibles everyday and to pray. In some of our discussion afterward, we did talk about the fact that if it made us “uncomfortable”, at least we were thinking about it. This was my first Triennium and it was quite the experience.


  15. As a youth, I did not like this sermon at all. First off, when is it okay to bring politics into worship? This whole week was about being connected and being one in Christ. But I personally left Triennium feeling divided along with a lot of other people. By bringing up the Zimmerman case just made us all divided even more and only showed one sided views. I’m not a liberal and I don’t care to hear about the same thing at ever sermon. Second off, when is it okay to swear in front of 5,000 people and then make fun of the adults leaving the service because of how they were offended. Also when is it okay to wear a wrestling suit to preach? Disrespectful not only to me but to God. Was this some kind of cult or joke? I’m sorry but the sermons this year was not as good as last years and it makes me sad to say that I left triennium on a bad note and I’m glad it’s my last year. Come on Triennium. What were you thinking? If this is what PCUSA is changing into then I don’t want to be a part of it. The Presbyterian church is falling apart and after this week I can clearly see why. Very disappointed.


    • exactly how i felt. there are ways to bring politics up in a way that doesnt espouse an ideology, but instead presents thoughtful topics to ponder. what he did was take an open stance, and tell us how to think. liberals get furious when conservatives preach agendas such as anti-abortion, and anti-gay messages in religion, but apparently this was ok. he openly told us to participate in the Occupy Wall Street movement, known to be a left wing movement, which a) i didnt know was still a thing, and b) is no different from standing in a pulpit and telling a congregation who to vote for. highly inappropriate. next is the swearing which i agree was highly unneeded. Tony Campolo did it in a sermon once, but it actually had a purpose and was used in a good way that captured the attention of the audience. this guy, pretty much just wanted to swear. i too am deeply troubled by the direction the church is going. if this is presented a conference in which we focus on the “future of the church”, the future is a going to be ugly.


      • while his sermon was controversial and as a youth i felt he brought up the zimmerman case too much, as well as all of the other sermons, i felt like all of you are ignoring what he was trying to get across. ignore the specifics of what he told you to go out and join this, join that, say this. what i feel he was trying to get across was a.) the original piece that we are all imperfect branches on the vine of christ and b.) that the church is not the same as it always was. its not going to be the same and although its hard to adjust to for some it is changing, as one speaker said that large boats take slightly longer to change course. its a new age and if we as christians are going to continue into the future, this may require the occasional reference of politics. initially they may seem to have no place in sermons but all of us tend to so easily forget that we are called to LIVE THE LIFE, not just listen and mind to ourselves. we are called to SPREAD the word, be a good citizen, BE the good samaritan. this involves getting involved in bigger things such as politics with people who share our ideologies. although we do not always agree within the presbyterian religion its time we call for CHANGE, not complacency. that said, although i dont agree with all parts of the final sermon i do believe we need more like it. sermons that break the typical lecture style and actually stimulate conversation! just look at this message board! the pastor who gave the sermon achieved his goal, for we are discussing the word of God with each other, for good or bad. look to the future with optimism because we are breaking the old trends set by the church for hundreds of years and blazing our own, presbyterian, trail.


  16. Thank you, Marci for your reflection on Claudio’s sermon. There is no question that his style is flamboyant and passionate. His use of the Lucha Libre costume was certainly unusual, but full of meaning. I left the auditorium recognizing that I need to learn more about Lucha Libre (meaning free fighting) and discovered that it is full of cultural meaning that would resonate with some of my brothers and sisters in that auditorium. It is a symbol of professional wrestling primarily in Mexico – and he certainly was wrestling with issues of Scripture and culture in his sermon. These masks are worn as a symbol that masks their identity. Wearing that mask as he was speaking of the brokenness in society – the issues of injustice, poverty, hunger – illustrated how we are divided and masked off from each other when these issues exist. Near the end of the sermon he proclaimed that because of God’s love, because Claudio loved us and he felt loved by us, he was able to take off that mask, which he tossed into the crowd. He then led us through the litany of affirmation about those things that bind us together. We are loved, we are worthy, we are children of Jesus’ tree, we belong to God. It was a strong, but effective, illustration of how “sin” that divides us leaves us broken, but when we are tethered to the tree of life (as he illustrated) we become loved and one in Christ.

    Was it shocking? Yes. But was not Jesus shocking when he threw over the tables in the the temple and spoke against the established religion? Was Claudio political? Yes, if you want to say that he was speaking about issues that are being discussed in the political arena. But I am concerned that we have so politicized our world that when the gospel is proclaimed and it connects to our world – it is defined as politics and so we close the door on dialogue. I think that is something we need to do some reflecting upon. If we walk away from every issue because it is “political” will we be able to proclaim the gospel? The work of the prophet was to minister between the marginalized in society and to advocate on their behalf in the halls of politics. Moses and the Pharoah, all the prophets and their kings, Jesus did the same. Not one of these leaders was popular with all the people all the time, even within their family of faith. John the Baptist was considered to be dressed so radically that it was written about in the gospels. Claudio is not the first. Who are we to judge and say that Claudio is not a prophetic voice in our day? Have we decided that God does not send us prophetic voices today? We know God so well that we can be certain that a costumed man cannot be sent from God? Are we so in control of the message that we have decided that no one can be offended? Even Jesus offended people who did not like his message.

    I agree that it is unfortunate that Claudio was the last preacher because we couldn’t discuss his message. It is clear from the reaction that many of us know little about the Latino culture and therefore did not understand the symbolism of his costume and how he was using it. It is unfortunate that we live in a climate where proclamation of the word that addresses social issues is defined as “too political.”

    Today I serve a church where George Washington worshiped and stood on the lawn recruiting soldiers to join in the revolution after a rousing sermon against the oppression of the King. King George in England referred to the revolution as the “Presbyterian Rebellion”. How many Presbyterians signed the Constitution? What was our voice during the Civil War? Entering into the political arena on behalf of the marginalized has always been part of our identity, and always controversial. Have we forgotten; or do we even know who we are as a branch of the Christian family?

    When I arrived home from Triennium I watched several news casts in which political pundits and clergy alike were saying that our nation is moving into a conversation about our morals and values as a nation. If we want to be relevant and faithful to our gospel calling, our voice must to be heard. What will we say if our churches do not address political issues? We must enter into the political arena on behalf of those being treated unjustly. Do we think that these issues are not appropriate for youth? We would be wrong. Many of the youth at Triennium are living with the issues the week addressed. Many of them resonated personally with much of what was said.

    Perhaps our desire to not offend anyone and to only provide objective sermons that comfort our people is closely connected to our decline. Claudio and the reaction to his, and other, sermons has left me questioning, “are we branches abiding in Christ, or are we withering because we are not living as we have been taught?” I have been reflecting on John 15:5-6. Many of the youth in my small group found themselves wrestling with the messages they heard throughout the week. They were inspired to go home and get involved in their congregations. They recognized the need to do the work of God in our broken world and that it is more than attending church or youth group meetings. Every one of my small group members remarked that they were tired of churches that don’t do anything, don’t talk about anything, and are constantly criticizing each other. One young man said, “I want to be part of a church that is DOING something about the problems of the world. I want to talk about this stuff. If this is what being Presbyterian is about, I want to be part of it!” Will the church listen to these voices?

    Triennium gave us so much to think about – youth and adult – and all God’s children. My prayer is that when we criticize we do it from a spirit of love and questioning and not a mean spirited self-righteousness. Calling Claudio’s costume, “Nacho Libre” is mean and shows our ignorance of the Latino culture Claudio comes from. Challenge the issues he brought, question his elaborate costume if you like, but open your mind to the possibility that God may be speaking powerful words through this man. His faith and passion burn within him, there is no quesion of this.

    Sorry this is so long!


    • Sue, I appreciate learning more about the costume and its possible purpose. It still feels like a Latino stereotype was used. I wonder if he did a WASP or Asian stereotype would we be so understanding?

      My wonder though on the politics of it all is whether a speaker who did the same thing and spoke about conservative issues with the same fiery passion how we on the liberal end would be responding?

      I would have preferred this sermon on Wednesday or Thursday when we would have time to unpack it with our mixed politics small group #171. We were blessed with both sides of the political spectrum in our small group.

      You are sure right that “Triennium gave us so much to think about.” Thanks for your response.


      • Hi Jim Monnett! I wish I could have seen you to say hello! I was #160. My group was also diverse, but eager to talk and listen. I hear what you’re saying about the costume, but knowing Claudio’s history – he has used a variety of costumes. I have less trouble with people using costuming that comes out of their own culture than if it were me, a very white, Anglo-Saxon, doing the same.

        I am willing to concede that my theological world view is more in line with Claudio’s. For me, what I was hearing was the Word of God proclaimed. I recognize that those more conservative voices would struggle. Would I feel the same way if the table was turned? Perhaps not, although I would like to think that I would try to listen to the message proclaimed and seek God’s voice speaking because honestly, I think we can learn from each other. But I know that taking that path can be difficult and often comes after a lot of fussing and fuming.

        Good to see your name! 🙂


      • Alissa, I think the point is that to many people in the room, it was a transformative and important Word for their faith journey. For many others, it was not.
        Perhaps that says something to us about God. God is much bigger than we can imagine. If we think we know exactly what God is going to say to us, perhaps we have re-made God in our own image. To have a message that spoke to some and angered others suggests to us that the God we worship will not be contained by any one ideology.
        Clearly, this sermon was not the word you were hoping for. I hope you heard God at many other points in the week. Thanks for commenting.


      • I think you are missing Alissa’s point. I did not find God’s word in this message at all. I heard ranting of an angry social activist who was trying to make God in his image, you put it. My small group leader told us it is easy to find and twist the Word to fulfill our needs. This is what happened on Saturday.


      • It seems you continue to miss mine as well…. Even though you found nothing redeeming in the sermon, other people did. Are you claiming God couldn’t have spoken to them through this sermon because God didn’t speak to you in it?


    • Thank you Sue, finally someone who puts this all in context. i was not at Triennium, but have been in a 2 day preaching workshop that Claudio led here in California last year. There is no doubt in my mind that he burns with Holy Ghost fire and has a message we all need to listne to.


  17. Agree, but I still feel that hospitable worship should occur during these events. Learn to love one another and worship together in harmony, despite our differences. Worship should of been a safe place for all these teens. Worship should have left the kids as one, not divided. Again, I was was not there, and would love to see the sermon.


  18. Not sure how many of these comments are coming from the young people who were there, but suspect the majority are from adults. I don’t think the adults in the audience were his primary target. He was preaching primarily to young people, and from my perspective was doing so in a manner and with a message that was much more likely to reach them than what I have heard most often from our Sunday morning pulpits. I’m an “older adult” myself, and while not everything he said (or the way he said it) resonated with me, I did hear God speaking to young people through one of God’s own — proclaiming some truths that, as truths often do, may have made us feel a bit uncomfortable and may have cast light into some corners we’d probably just as soon remain in the dark.

    C’mon folks… his use of profanity (once) was theatrical. To a lesser, or at least different extent, so are “praise bands.” If you were listening closely, you know that it reflected a reality in the context within which he used it. Many young people respond to the language, politics, and music they hear in their peer groups every day much more deeply than they’ll ever respond to an hour of structured, traditional worship (including a 40-minute sermon with three points). If we insist on our young people worshiping “the way it’s always been done,” we’ll continue to see them abandon the church when they escape our direct influence. And if you think Jesus wasn’t “political” in his day, then I’d suggest a re-read of the New Testament with a good book on the history of that era to supplement it.

    This was my third Triennium as a SGL. I expected neither to like everything about it nor to dislike everything about it. My expectations in that respect were met. But most importantly, it wasn’t about me — or any of the adults in attendance. We need to remember that.


  19. Wow. Such a shame. In fact, shame on you Claudio. (I read the sermon on his website, so I believe I got a pretty good taste of it)

    Shame on you for bringing your political agenda into a sermon and alienating the more conservative Christian youth. One student on this comments thread said:

    “If this is what PCUSA is changing into then I don’t want to be a part of it. The Presbyterian church is falling apart and after this week I can clearly see why. Very disappointed.” Another said,

    ” i too am deeply troubled by the direction the church is going.”

    Accusing Zimmerman of being a racist? Supporting the Occupy Movement? How is this helpful? What if Claudio had come out and spoken against the PCUSA’s support of abortion and Planned Parenthood and told people to picket at abortion clinics? Do you really think you’d be supporting him? No. There would be an outcry.

    Claudio was divisive to the point of turning away young people who have different political views than him; driving them right out of the church as the comments show. You say you want an open and inclusive church? Then you should be upset that the final speaker acted as he did and you should make your voice known.

    So, shame on you Claudio for bringing your (liberal) agenda to Triennium, and isolating and driving away people who are different from you. You are not contributing in the denominations connectivity. Instead, you are contributing in splitting us apart.

    A very concerned PCUSA seminarian.


    • I’m unclear. Are you just wanting to shame Claudio for preaching a sermon you didn’t like? Or are you also trying to shame me for not condemning his sermon?

      There was a lot of shame being thrown about in your comment, and I want to make sure it was directed clearly.


      • (Sorry if this is a duplicate response, but I think I didn’t successfully post my reply.)

        Sorry, no, i didn’t mean to address you at all. I just read my post and see that I said “you” in a few places. I didn’t mean to be addressing you at all. In my head I was referring to the PCUSA; specifically the many PCUSA voices who say they want a diverse church.

        Anyway, I do believe that Claudio should be ashamed of what he did. There are many who found his sermon to be inappropriate at minimum and even deplorable. So, if I’m “shaming” him as you say, then so be it. I don’t think I’m wrong for saying that he should be ashamed. Because he should be. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I didn’t “like” his sermon, and everything to do with the fact that he got unnecessarily political at event for youth with the effect of alienating many of them.


      • Thanks for your reply.

        Personally, I have not ever found shaming to be an effective means of changing people’s minds or hearts. I don’t have any problem with the idea of not liking his sermon. But have found that there are ways other than shame that are much more effective at changing troubling behaviors.

        Along the same lines, I’m not sure the method Claudio chose to preach his message was very effective either. And maybe that speaks to the root of the problem–how can we communicate God’s word in a way that invites people into dialogue and into transformation?


      • And to the voices who say they want a diverse church–do you think they are wrong for wanting a diverse church? Or do you think they don’t really want diversity?


      • I suppose I was shaming him, as I did say “shame on you.” However, I don’t think it was inappropriate to do so. If someone does something that has the effect of turning young people away from the church as his “sermon” seemingly did (see the comments above from two of the young people), then I don’t think it’s out of line to say “shame on you.” If a conservative were to have gone up on that stage and spew conservative ideals such as saying that homosexuality was wrong, then I would say “shame on you” to him as well. I guess I feel that saying “shame on you” fits sometimes. To me it’s naming a wrong. I know you disagree, so if we could agree to disagree, that would be great.

        And so you know, I have contacted Claudio directly and have told him one-to-one, why and how I think what he did was wrong. I have faced him directly, in other words. Anyway…

        I think it’s great if the PCUSA wants a diverse church. I’m just not convinced that it does. I have my doubts, actually. If they did, then would they have allowed Claudio to present his sermon as he did, or are they not vetted beforehand? Also, it’s been my personal experience that sometimes when I question the denomination’s policy on something like abortion, for example, I have been treated improperly. Yelled at, basically. Shamed, perhaps.

        I can stay in a denomination that has different stances on things like abortion and gay marriage, but it will be hard to stay in one that will not allow someone with a different point of view (specifically, conservative) to express their difference of opinion.

        How about you? Do you think the denomination welcomes the more conservative voices in the denomination? Or, do you think the church is looking for a more ideologically “pure” church?


      • I’m happy to agree to disagree about the efficacy of shame.
        In terms of diversity, I think it is a struggle. Not speaking for anyone other than myself, I don’t want other people to have to agree with me. I’m fine with theological diversity–to a point. When someone starts using theological diversity to tell a LGBT brother or sister that they are going to hell, my tolerance for diversity ends. That’s just one example. Diversity is difficult.
        In terms of Claudio’s sermon, I would argue that it was proof of diversity, rather than an exception to it. I am a fairly liberal person, but I would never have said what he said from the pulpit. It was far more liberal than the average Presbyterian. Sermons at Triennium (historically) seem to come from much more middle of the road to conservative flavored preachers.
        I think conservative voices are welcomed in the denomination, actually. I just don’t think many of them want to stick around when their voice isn’t the only one represented. There have been no changes to the Book of Order that would limit a conservative Presbyterian from continuing in their conservativeness, yet many of them have chosen to go to other denominations or even to create a new one, rather than stick around.
        I have many conservative friends who I consider good colleagues in ministry. I would never tell them how their congregation should practice their faith, even though some of them really want to limit how mine does.
        I’m sorry you have felt shamed for your viewpoints. I hope you will continue to stick around. We are all stronger when we can stand together than we are when we divide and fracture. Blessings.


      • Thanks for the encouragement to stick around, Marci.

        I agree with what you say about diversity as well. It’s got its limits. The example you gave would be a deal-breaker for me as well.

        I appreciate diversity. But I don’t appreciate what Claudio did. The problem is is that the denomination favors the left’s voices more than the right’s voices, in my opinion. Again, one could not have gotten on that stage and talk about the problems of elective abortion and denounce Planned Parenthood, even though the denomination says it’s against elective abortion. If someone had done that, do you think they would have been tolerated? I don’t think so. I think they probably would have been pulled from the stage. If not that, they certainly would never be able to speak at a PCUSA convention again. I bring this up as a way to show that it seems that the Left is allowed to say what they want, but the Right would never get away with saying what they want. (This is my opinion; I hope I’m proved wrong) Therefore, I think it’s natural that conservatives would want to leave the PCUSA. Knowing that they can’t get on a national stage at a PCUSA event and speak about things that are important to them, like abortion, that they must stay on the side-lines with their beliefs, must be frustrating. (I’d be curious to know your thoughts on what I’ve said here; if I’m off base or not)

        On another note, it’s interesting what you say about your more conservative friends; how they would want to tell you how your congregation should practice their faith. I’ve mainly heard the complaints from the conservative side, so this is good for me to hear. It rings true knowing conservatives and growing up conservative.


      • A concerned seminarian said this: If someone does something that has the effect of turning young people away from the church as his “sermon” seemingly did (see the comments above from two of the young people), then I don’t think it’s out of line to say “shame on you.”

        I caution us with this attitude, because we’d have definitely shamed Jesus were this the yardstick by which we should be measured. After all, Jesus didn’t tell the “Rich Young Ruler” to put God first, tell people about Jesus, and be nice to folks. He deliberately, incisively struck to the heart of the young man’s weakness: his wealth.

        If we in the US have a national sin, it’s our relationship to wealth.

        The gospel is deeply offensive when preached correctly. We aren’t to be offensive for the sake of being offensive, but the gospel itself will always be offensive. It will always drive away more people than it draws. That’s its nature.


  20. Pingback: No Time to Be Tepid | Glass Overflowing

  21. 3. Stop using heterosexist language. In the first sermon at Triennium, the preacher referred to the boys in the auditorium, insinuating that they all have crushes on girls. They do not and it is oppressive and painful for gay youth to hear this kind of quip. I realize this is the most difficult of my suggestions, because we do it all the time. But for the sake of not inflicting pain, start paying attention and making what may feel to you like insignificant shifts, but have serious psychological effects for youth.


  22. I am an African American Presbyterian Teaching Elder who serves a majority African American congregation in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have read the sermon by Claudio by following the link you pasted. i thank you Marci for sharing it and inviting this conversation. However, I have to confess that i cannot understand the upset and condemnation that this sermon has received. What i read addressed issues of low self esteem, isolation, bullying, size acceptance, community building, and God’s love for all people. He preached a “social gospel” that encouraged the church to be active in the public square on behalf of the poor and oppressed, to question the behavior of the wealty and the government and to hold our elected officials accountable to this call. He talked about the horror of the death of Trayvon Martin (If not in a room full of young people, where else could be a more important and appropriate place for this to be addressed?). All of these issues resonate deeply with my understanding of the our Confessions and the African American prophetic faith tradition. This is what i try to preach each Sunday. Aside from the curse word (which i didn’t see in the online text) there isn’t anything here that i would not have said in a sermon. Could it be that Claudio’s preaching pushed against the protective bubble of white privilege that so many of the offended youth and adults at the event live in that may make these things non-issues in their context? If so, i’m sure that this was mission accomplished.


    • on the contrary. he used the pulpit to advocate liberal policies. which isn’t inherently bad, but does show a level of hypocrisy when people, like Marci for that matter who claim they hate it when conservatives use the pulpit to champion more conservative causes such as anti-gay material and pro-life material. why then is it ok for him to tell us to join occupy wall street? how would the left respond to a preacher telling children to join tea party patriots? the problem with church being “active in the public” is that we have a first amendment that prevents religion from being forced on us and prevents religion from polluting public policy. his entrance pretending to be trayvon martin was insulting since he claimed to be him. it was in poor taste. he also stressed the cruel doctrine of original sin. that was evident when he talked about how apart from christ we are nothing. and the whole notion of “fix you,” implying that we are inherently broken. well i don’t think i’m broken, i think i can be good regardless of whether i have god or not, and i don’t want to be fixed. also the curse word was not in the online text because he re-wrote it before he put it online, or at least omitted parts. there were a few other things he said that were not included in the online text.


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