Friday, March 30, 2007

Food for thought

I feel as busy as an accountant these days. He is preparing 104oEZ forms, I am preparing sermons. While it's no where near what some preachers have to preach, I have 5 sermons to write in the next couple of weeks. Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter, and then two for a youth retreat in Mexico. I am reading and writing like a mad woman.

In preparation for the 7 last words sermon(ettes) I will co-preach with my senior, I am reading one book by Charles H. Spurgeon and another by Arthur Pink. Pink referenced a Spurgeon quote: "I will just stand to what I ever shall and always have preached, and take God's Word as it stands, whether I can reconcile it with another part of God's Word or not." Spurgeon claims "I don't know" where he cannot reconcile harsh contrasts or the inexplicable. He trusts Scripture and preaches accordingly, somewhere in there the Spirit moves and speaks and he is called to be faithful to preaching the text.

That's a significant challenge for me. One I will probably need to chew on awhile longer. I do trust Scripture. I do believe it is divinely inspired and that the Spirit continues to inspire us as we read it today. I fully believe in sticking to the text and being faithful in that. And, nevertheless, I struggle with discrepancies. I struggle with the Old Testament God vs. New Testament God theories/arguments. I don't find peace in the God of wrath. One of my lectionary partners regularly challenges me on that front (though I don't think he knows that or does it intentionally). I don't want to worship a God of vindication, and so, I struggle to preach those texts without a reminder of God's grace and love. I preach amor, justicia, paz, y compasion so much that I wonder if my congregants feel any variance week to week.

I suppose I was doubly challenged today. A man relatively new to our congregation loaned me a book "Licencia Para Pecar" (License to Sin). The book challenges the loose way the church treats sin in the modern world. It is actually a wonderfully written book. And while I don't agree with all of the authors conclusions, he is stimulating my thoughts around sins, Sin, etc. He wrote about the ways we dismiss God regarding sin. First, he gave an example of a burglar who takes a son hostage. The family pleads with him, offering money, then cars, jewelry, whatever in exchange for their son's life. The man refuses. Appealing to a sense of compassion, then the family pleads with the man to think of how young their son is and how much he would suffer. Still indignant, the man continues to hold the son hostage. They plead that he is their oldest son, that he is necessary to their well-being. Nothing. Finally, without alternatives, the family begins to threaten the man, they will call the police, he will be put in prison, maybe even face the death penalty. Still nothing. The man is hard-hearted.

The authors parallels the hardened heart of this man to those entrenched in sin. He made me think differently about how I approach conversations about sin. I tend to stay toward the "nice" side of the conversation--look at how much God loves you, cares for you, look at how wonderful life is when God is present and real to you. I forget what it takes when one is stubborn, hard-hearted. Sometimes we become so indignant that only fear of penalty stops us, and other times, when we feel we have nothing left to lose, even that serves to hinder destructive behaviors.

One of the (Bible) teachers in my congregation tends toward the other side. He regularly talks about God's judgment and wrath. He has served to balance me. And hopefully with this book, I will come to see the other side with less resistance, greater clarity, and may come into some "softer" language (at least by my standards) with which to explain/preach the realities of sin/Sin.

No comments: