Theologian Karl Barth claimed “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” Each week, many of us preachers adhere to this advice. We review the Scripture which we have chosen (often from the lectionary), attempt to understand it from the context in which it was written, and then apply the text to today’s world.
Unfortunately, I find it more and more difficult to hold the Bible in one and the newspaper in the other. Engaging in this practice requires me to address the world today. And often the lectionary texts with which we are preaching feature Jesus radically attempting to change the world.
For instance, this week’s text featured Jesus turning over tables in the Temple. Jesus is protesting the powers-that-be and the corrupt commerce practices of the time. And he doesn’t just voice his concern but decides to physically disrupt the exploitive dealings. Like I mentioned in my sermon this Sunday: it’s interesting that we criticize people who are protesting today and yet we don’t criticize Jesus for protesting very radically during his time…
As I hold Biblical texts like this alongside recent events, I cannot ignore the speeches and marches by students who are standing against gun violence and for gun control. I cannot dismiss protestors who see a members of the community unjustly targeted by community authorities. I cannot forget the women who are speaking out against sexual abuse and harassment.
And yet, here we are in congregations which hold a variety of views. As pastors, we are called to be prophetic, addressing the injustices of our time and pointing out in scripture where the prophets spoke out against gaps in the system. Yet we must walk the fine line between being prophetic and pastoral, praying and searching for the best words to use and hoping that we present the issue with the appropriate amount of pressure for our particular congregations.
During my 45ish years, I’ve never seen so much division in our society based on political and theological beliefs. As the Church, I believe we are called to find common ground between all of us and continue to converse on these subjects…
…But I must admit that on some Sunday mornings – when the text offers a prophetic tone and the issues of today are calling us to address – all I want to do is pull the covers over my head and stay in bed. I do not want to be the one who stirs the pot. The simplicity of brunch with friends or sleeping until 11am would be delightful. And somehow, God has called many of us pastors to lead the conversation. God has called all of us to leave our homes on Sunday morning to wrestle together – no matter how liberal or conservative our politics or who we voted for in 2016.
So let’s join together in this uncomfortably holy space- ready to experience God in the chaos of this time. As we pastors approach the pulpit, we may have dry mouths or racing hearts as we wonder how our message will be received. We realize that our message may infuriate some. We understand that we are called to take up the cross and follow Jesus into the depths of radical love. But know that we are trying to be as faithful as possible to God in this 2018 world, loving our congregations as we fulfill our callings.