3/26/2000, Lent 3 Year B
the Foolishness of Preaching
"Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength." If you and I were God we probably could have thought up a better way of communicating with we lost children in this fallen world. Or, at least we Method-ists would think it best to appoint a committee to study the proposal, and than another to draft a working model, and then another oversight committee to insure proper representation, and perhaps another to finally write something down that would then be voted down; or worse, accepted by acclimation and then ignored. What a worded wall we sometimes invent that has the effect of defeating the initial thing that we felt somehow compelled to develop. Sometimes even our simple act of communal worship can lose it's way amid the words. An unchurched person, unfamiliar with our verbiage, would struggle to get it. A child returned from his first ever experience at Sunday morning worship and his Grandpa asked him what he thought of it. The first grader responded, "Well, the music was pretty good but the commercial was too long!" Don't we sometimes feel ourselves in the way of the communion that the Spirit so wants to set in the hearts of us the hearers? We want to say it, but somehow we can't get it right. O what a worded tapestry we attempt to weave together in worship, and in Sunday School, and in meetings, and even in Messenger articles: Words, words and more words. But, we serve one who came as the Divine Word: The Father's attempt to communicate with us through the Living Word. A friend of mine is an orthopedic surgeon. Since much of his reshaping of broken bones is a delicate form of carpentry, his hobby is wood working. It has helped his surgical carpentry to become skilled in perfectly joining wood miter joints together. Sid wanted to go to Maine and study carpentry for three months under the world's greatest craftsman of handmade furniture, but he could not be away from his medical practice for such a long time; so; he sent his only son so that he might come back and communicate the skills to the Father and to others at home. There's a sermon in that. Who else could teach a father better than a son? Communication with many words and demonstrations has taken place as the son has taught the father how to build beautiful handcrafted furniture. Words are somehow a necessary caveat if we are to "Go Tell Everybody Everywhere the Good News about Jesus Christ." The most successful way that the world has responded to the Word over the Christian Centuries has been through preaching: Not through convincing wisdom, but through plain words that the Living God has used to enable words of truth to touch the hearts of millions. Have we not all experienced joy divine as we have sung with reckless abandon to the Spirit? Have our souls not been touched by a Choir special that seemed to be just for us? Have we not been convicted, challenged and called by simple words that have fallen from the lips of some Servant of God, and bearer of grace? Most of the time it was not what was said that reached us, not by proof or evidence, or oratorical skills; but, by some even unintentional word that became the Living Word for us. Is our text not reminding us that ultimately the process of communicating the Gospel and drawing Disciples is not of our own doing, but God's. He continually calls us to greater heights through the doing. The teacher sometimes needs the refresher course more than the student needs to hear it as a new thing. Preachers preach to themselves as much as to parishioners. The saint in social service serves her, or himself, as much as the one served. We might say that the servant serves as the Spirit raises up human activities and makes them His channel of grace. At our Thursday 12:10 worship service I spoke briefly from Psalm 19 where it says that God has attempted to communicate to our souls through Nature... "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork." Tonight we look at The Ten Commandments through which God attempted to add order to our living by setting up a standard of conduct and thinking. This time in our Christian Year we are preparing ourselves to relive the supreme events that lie at the core of God's plan for our redemption, the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. In this morning's text we are reminded that the proclamation, the retelling, of this story of salvation is made effective as the Holy Spirit raises it up and makes it to become His transmission of love, acceptance and grace. So, when we are foolish in our teaching, or stumble in our preaching, or our voice cracks on the high notes of singing, or when we sometimes do not know how to answer a child's question about theology, or if we feel a failure in counseling a friend, It is OK; It's not up to us anyway. Not that we should not prepare to do our best. Our own pilgrimage in discipleship is a never ending road we walk, but even when we are strong we discover our weakness. "...but to those who are called... Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God." (v24). I am so often surprised by grace. At lunch one day I went on and on about how much of contemporary Christian music was what I termed, "Hollering Music." Then something happened that afternoon that grabbed by soul and opened my ears, as I drove home, listening to a CD a friend had given me, I was really blessed by the simple words of some really wild choral music from a church that serves the tenements of Brooklyn: Untrained voices singing, but they were willing to be used as instruments to reach a hard hearted preacher. God can use our foolishness, and we sometimes have plenty of it.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor