Sunday, May 03, 2009

Lay Preaching

Earl was away and I preached, which happens about twice a year. I worked from Luke 10 and Luke 16. Jesus sends out the 72, two-by-two, to preach in the villages, telling these disciples to just leave if they aren't listened to. These days we would have Village Evangelism Seminars, where a guy on a video would explain to us "We interviewed the top ten teams that were accepted in the most villages, and you know what we found?" Then the video guy would identify some chance similarity, like where they prayed or whether they wore striped tunics, and identify that as the magic key.

Jesus doesn't. His answer is cold, and a bit horrifying. Those are the parts of scripture I like to head for - the ones that seem impossible or wrong. The things that make you say maybe it's a bad translation here or something.

In Luke 16, we have the similar story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. When the rich man is in hell and can't get even a drop of water, he asks that Lazarus at least be sent to warn the man's brothers. Abraham gives an equally cold answer. Don't bother. They didn't listen to Moses and the Prophets, they won't listen even if someone comes back from the dead. (Jesus is using a bit of foreshadowing here). I keep getting distracted by my pity for the rich man in the story. After all, he is thinking of others besides himself, it seems a shame he remains in hell. But it's just a story, even though it has a serious point. It's on the level of our clever vignettes (or even jokes) that start. "A guy dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter meets him at the gates and asks..." It's not a real guy. Jesus is making a point, not describing a reality.

Anyway, it's still cold, and deeply troubling. Evangelicals are trained to think differently, to keep trying to find new strategies if people don't listen. It's a way of pretending things are under our control: if we just wear striped tunics have better music at worship, people will come. Like it's our fault (and thus secretly, to our credit when things go right).

There are other parts of the Bible that give a different impression. I'm not claiming this is the full picture. But it has to be taken into account.

1 comment:

Buz said...

Are you SURE it was just a story. You have the one person in all of history who was around to see that really happen. Maybe he just changed the names ... maybe it was really Bob and the rich man ...