Last week I started a series of sermons titled: The Embracing Church: Life in the Expansive Kingdom of God. It is a series looking that assumes that the God who embraces all of us likewise wants the Body of Christ to be about embrace as well. Last week, I preached a variation on the post I shared here on the Expansive Kingdom of God, suggesting that there is a theological basis for being a people of embrace rather than a people of exclusion.
In coming weeks I will be preaching on specific practices of embrace (using the five Greek words for love as a way of thinking about our ministry of embrace). However, before we go there, I am convinced that we first have to do the work of repentance and admit the ways that we have and continue to exclude others, even when we are unaware we do so. This week’s sermon is in the tradition of the prophet Nathan, who confronted David and named David’s sin so that he could recognize it.
Prophetic preaching has a long and hard tradition in the church, and I am comfortable with what I am feeling called to share, having thought about it for a long time.
However, as I was describing the sermon to my pastoral spouse Kay today, she asked the question that she always asks: “Where is the good news?”
Of course, that is the purpose of preaching in the Christian tradition, the sharing of the evangel, the good news of Jesus Christ for the world. And Kay’s question is an important one in preparing prophetic words, for it is always easier to tear down than to build up, to deconstruct than to reconstruct. Frankly, a little fire and brimstone is fun, for it feels so . . . powerful . . . and significant. Yet, to fail to identify how this word of warning and/or rebuke from God fails to tie into the good news of Jesus Christ is to become sadistic in our preaching, gaining our own sense of superiority as we lead others to wallow in their (our) sin.
Luckily for me, I think I recognize the good news in what I am sharing this Sunday. Yes, we fail God by excluding others from life in the kingdom. Yes, in our ignorance and intention both we try to cast others different from us out of our midst. But the good news is that Christ has called us to repentance and given us the way toward transformation. We are not locked into our traditional ways of being. In naming them we know them and in knowing them we can turn away from them. We are given hope in Jesus Christ of a world where all are embraced as children of God, including us, who may need the biggest dose of God’s grace of all.