Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Yep - We Have To
As a preacher, I have to tell you, I sometimes wish I could avoid some passages of Scripture. I’d rather not face our Gospel lesson for this morning, for example. But because I made a rule for myself, to always preach on the most difficult passage of Scripture appointed for a given day, I'm preaching on it. With its account of John the Baptizer’s execution, our lesson from Mark is so laced with evil that it’s disturbing.With those opening paragraphs, Mark goes on to examine what we can do to avoid evil, by first facing up to it. Without saying so, I think this sermon by Mark addresses so much that is wrong with Evangelicalism.
But when I think of it, what I see in today’s Gospel lesson is a lot like what I see in life on Monday through Saturday. As wonderful as life is most of the time, there are things I’d rather not face. These are the evils—like the inhumane things that human beings sometimes do to one another—that, when you learn of them, make you wonder, “How could this have happened? How can people be so cruel or sadistic?”
With its shallow, "God loves us" (Often expressed with the same tone and depth as Barney the Dinosaur singing "I love you, you love me,") BE SAVED! approach to things Evangelicalism just skirts around the genuine evil that so pervades our world. We just don't want to face it. Why are we so afraid to confront evil?
1) Lack of faith. We don't truly believe God is who we say He is. If we did we could face evil without any problem because we would know that we have at our disposal the power to defeat it.
We also lack faith that the world without evil that God would create is actually better. One of the funniest lines ever put in a film occurs at the end of the big ballet number in "Singing In The Rain." Set as a "Visualization" as Gene Kelly describes to the producer the number we are treated to about ten minutes of gloriously bright Technicolor sets with dancers by the hundreds and camera angles from the moon. The number is huge and exciting almost beyond imagining. When it ends and comes back the producers office, he simply mutters "I don't know, I can't picture it." So often we are like that - the glories of an evil-less world are presented to us in vivid, clear, gorgeous Technicolor and yet, somehow "We can't picture it."
2) It means changing ourselves. Jesus said it - we cannot deal with the others guy's plank until we deal with our own mote.
And that brings me back to the problems of much of modern Evangelicalism. The incredible news of the resurrection was proceed by the awful, painful reality of the crucifixion. It is so easy to rush to the resurrection and try to not pay any attention to the cross. People like a "gospel" like that. But the one that destroys the evil in us o the way, well that's not so popular. And after all, there are pews to fill and salaries to pay to we'll just de-emphasize that whole crucifixion thing a bit.
In doing so we demonstrate a lack of faith. In doing so we put the lie to the very message we seek to advance.
We hold more power than man can conceive of in us. The Holy Spirit makes all the nuclear weapons ever conceived of, let alone built, pale as power. And all we have to do is let it work. It's a shame we keep getting in the way.