proclamation

Forgetting to Remember

Jesus said that he came to testify to the truth (John 18). He also said that those who continue in his word are true disciples who know the truth (John 8). It sometimes is the case that Christians can get it in our minds that since Jesus testifies to the truth and followers of Jesus know the truth, that we have sole access to Truth.

Beyond making it difficult to be in relationship with us when we believe we have sole access to Truth, we Christians are not very good at admitting we are wrong. How can we be wrong if we have access to the truth? How can Christian beliefs be wrong if our leader testifies to the truth?

Gil Bailie points out that the Greek word lēthe means forgetful. He notes that when you put an “a” as a prefix you get alētheia, translated as truth (as it is in John 8 and 18). Literally speaking this word means to not be forgetful, or to stop forgetting.

This means that living in the truth does not mean to speak with absolute and ultimate unquestionable correctness. Living in the truth means that we do not forget.

Photo by  James Hammond  on  Unsplash

Photo by James Hammond on Unsplash

We can be wrong and still be living in the truth, because living in the truth means we admit that we do not have the whole truth. Even that which we do “know” to be True, we hold lightly because we admit there maybe things we are unintentionally forgetting.

Living in the truth is one of the distinctions of the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. The kingdom of this world is more interested in forgetting than in remembering. As such, the kingdom of this world is not of the truth. The kingdom of God does not forget and thus is a kingdom of the truth. It may explain in part why the prophets emphasis remembering and why Jesus asks us to “do this in remembrance of me.”

The reality is living in the truth means that we admit we are wrong. We do not fear being wrong, in fact the Gospel proclaims that there is a joy in being wrong. As Bailie points out: “The joy of being wrong is that being wrong can be forgiven: it is insisting on being right that confirms our being bound in sin.”

And so on this week going into the beginning of a new year (Advent) consider the baptism vows which say:

We renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of our sin.

We accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

We confess Jesus Christ as Savior, put our whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as our Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.

Let us not forget.

Giving Up Preaching

Photo by  Nycholas Benaia  on  Unsplash

Photo by Nycholas Benaia on Unsplash

Preaching is sometimes discussed as though it were an dying art. There are fewer people going to church and even fewer who are interested to listen to a sermon. Attention spans are about 30 seconds long and if you cannot tweet it then it will not be heard - or so the basic argument goes.

As a result of this there is a growing emphasis on the art of preaching. This is not without merit. Anyone dedicated to a craft is naturally interested to learn more about that craft. However, preaching as an art is not on the ropes.

At the most basic, preaching is speaking. Perhaps we could narrow the definition to speaking on a religious matter. To that end, preaching is alive and well. Preachers are a dime a dozen these days. And it is difficult to pin down what makes a good preacher beyond personal tastes. Preaching is not what the Church lacks.

The Church lacks proclamation.

Proclamation is at the root of the ministry of Jesus. Consider how Jesus inaugurated his ministry by reading the following from Isaiah:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free, 
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ 

Jesus did not come to preach. His was a ministry of proclamation. Even what we call the “Sermon on the Mount” is a title that later theologians called a section of Matthew’s gospel. Jesus did not preach sermons - he proclaimed Good News.

One of the ways to differentiate the the difference between preaching and proclaiming is the nature of the news. We preachers are very good at talking about “bad news”. We can describe the problems in our world, we can point out sin and speak of a broken world. This can be good preaching, but poor proclamation.

Proclamation describes “Good News”. You know when someone has moved from preaching to proclaiming when their words or actions highlight hope and mercy. We all have seen someone speaking or working and something happens, something comes over them and us that moves deep into our bones. It is that moment when you hear or see the very thing that confronts “bad news” rather than just describing it.

The best preachers I know are those who gave up preaching long ago in the pursuit to proclaim.