Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sermons I Hate to Preach

This week's scriptures are Isaiah 5:1-16 and Matthew 21:33-46.

I hate preaching sermons which come out of what I call "judgement passages." These are the ones in which the prophets (such as Isaiah) or Jesus are holding up the ways in which God's people (meaning you and I) have failed to live up to what we have been called to be.

The reason I hate preaching about them is simple. Like David in the Psalms, "my sin is ever before me." I know enough about my own sins and shortcomings to know that these passages all too often speak directly to my own frailty and sin. There is no way.....EVER....for me to stand before a congregation and scold them for their shortcomings. Any time I preach about God's word judging us, the emphasis is on the "US" and I stand beneath that judgement with you. And, frankly, that's not a very comfortable place to be.

But there is good news. The good news is that God never speaks to us in judgement without the opportunity for repentence...a word which means to turn, to change, to move in a different direction.

As a wayfor to begin this examination of God's word of judgement to us, I would offer the words of G.K. Chesterton's hymn which we will be using Sunday. Think about it with me as we move through the week in prayer. The words ring as true today ans they did when he wrote it in 1906:

O God of earth and altar
bow down and hear our cry.
Our earthly rulers falter
our people drift and die.
The walls of gold entomb us,
the swords of scorn divide.
Take not our thunder from us,
but take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
from lies of tongue and pen,
from all the easy speeches
that comfort cruel men;
from sale and profination
of honor and the sword,
from sleep and from damnation
deliver us good Lord

Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall.
Bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all.
In ire and exaltation,
aflame with faith and free;
lift up a living nation
a single sword to Thee.

Hope to see you Sunday.


Anonymous said...

Nice title! I fully agree with you. Some people are troubled by the fact that Christianity often portrays God as a judge; but I think it's a relief that God judges us - rather than people judging us because I believe God has infinite capacity to forgive.

I found it interesting that both the old and new testament readings this week have a vineyard story. They're a little different, but even Matthew ends with Jesus concurring with his crowd that parable's evil-doers will be "crushed" and/or "smashed to pieces." (Matt 21:44)

However, I read this in the CEV version and there was a footnote that said some versions don't have this line, which is the only place in the passage where Jesus vocalizes judgment. Otherwise, he just says "God's kingdom will be taken from you and given to people who will do what he demands." Granted, he doesn't correct the crowd for saying that the landlord should kill the killers/thieves...

I like to keep judgment in the Old Testament and forgiveness in the New Testament, but maybe it doesn't work that way. Or maybe the spirit of the message just gets tangled up in parables sometimes.

Are you focusing on both passages or just Isaiah? What do you think about Jesus comments and the fact that different versions represent them differently?

Anonymous said...

Uploaded 10-15.

Wow...amazing thoughts here. Thanks for giving us more to think about, and from a different perspective.