pointy.jpgSo, I’m preaching again on Sunday – I will be basically every second Sunday for the forseeable future – and I’m looking forward to having the chance to make people uncomfortable and angry.  I say this in the most loving and encouraging way.  I’m not looking forward to preaching because I want to make people angry, but I’m looking forward to preaching this message and I’m pretty sure that some people will likely wind up angry by the end of it.  Christians generally don’t like being confronted with the fact that they may not have everything right.  On a sidenote, for those of you who haven’t read the “Things White People Like” blog, I’ve been thinking it would be funny to write a blog about “Things Christians Like/Don’t Like”.  If you think it’s a good idea, you’re welcome to steal it so long as I get some creative control.

I’m looking at the passage from Luke about the two guys on the Emaus road.  Traditionally most people have looked at this passage and preached about how Jesus wanted to give hope to people that were distraught over his death.  I don’t doubt that he did, but I don’t think that’s really the point of Jesus whole interaction with the two guys on the road.  I think if I preached that message it wouldn’t upset anybody, but I also wouldn’t be doing my job.  No I’m pretty sure the point of the whole interaction is there were two guys (probably more like them but these are the only two we hear about) who were so convinced of what the Messiah was supposed to be (a liberating leader who would resurrect the Israelite empire) that after Jesus death they just couldn’t really believe he was the Messiah anymore.  They walked down the road pooling their ignorance and re-enforcing their own wrong shared view point with eachother.  Eventually Jesus came up to them – they didn’t recognize him – and they told him too how they hoped that Jesus was the Messiah but now they weren’t so sure because he died.  At this point Jesus essnetially called them stupid people and told them how they understood nothing and showed them how wrong they were.  After they realized it, their eyes were opened and they finally recognized Jesus for who he was, litterally and figuratively.  They had been missing the point.

This makes me think a lot of questions.  It’s easy for us to look back at the Jews in the Old Testament and laugh as we see them make the same mistakes over and over again.  It’s easy for us to look at the disciples and people in the gospels and shake our heads in disdain as we see them miss the point of what Jesus was trying to teach them about how to serve God and about what the Messiah was really supposed to do.  How often do we stop to think about what we’ve got wrong though?  I guarantee you we don’t have it all right.  Just like the two guys on the Emmaus road, what things are we so convinced we have right that we blind ourselves to what is really right?  What things will Christians a hundred years from now look back at and wonder how we could have been so wrong?  Sometimes we get so comfortable with getting things wrapped up in tight little theological packages that we stop looking for what the truth really is.  Sometimes we get so comfortable discussing our beliefs with people that see things exactly the same way we do that we never grow or learn new things or discover where we’re wrong because we only re-enforce our own view points.  What kind of things are keeping us from seeing God and his plans as they truly are?  The two men on the Emaus road were so sure that they knew what the Messiah was supposed to be that they couldn’t see what he really was.  It was so bad that God purposely blinded them to Jesus identity on the road until they would come to the realization of who Jesus really was as the Messiah and as God.  It was only after they realized what they had wrong that God opened their eyes to realize that Jesus was right there in their midst.  So I wonder, what kind of things are blinding us to who God really is and what he really wants to do?  What kinds of beliefs or practices have we wrongly accepted as right that are keeping us from seeing God as he is and his work as it stands?  I think these are really important questions because I don’t want to be the guy or part of the people that Christians will look back on with disdain one hundred years from now.  Where are we missing the point?  I’d certainly like to miss the point if being kicked with a boot like the one in the picture, but when it comes to serving God, that’s a point I don’t want to miss.

If you’re wondering what we could possibly have wrong, just look at what kinds of things Christianity accepted for so long that we look back on with disdain now like the acceptance of slavery or the oppression of women.  We look back now and wonder how Christians could have been so out of touch with reality and God’s values, but at the time those Christians were convinced they were right.  Will our issues be how we allowed women to minister in the church?  How we handle the homosexual issue?  How 20th century evangelicals viewed alcohol consumption?  How we treat people with tatoos or piercings?  How we present the good news as “fire insurance” with no strings attached?  How the church seems to constantly want to prove science wrong?  What are the issues that are keeping us from seeing God and his truth as they truly are?

I’ll be the first to admit that I likely don’t have it all right.  I think that someone who thinks they have it all right likely has never been farther from having it all right.  I realize I likely don’t have it all right, but I want to have it more right all the time.  I want to really look at what God thinks on issues and what the truth really is so that we can truly be the people of God.  Sunday could be interesting, but I’m finding it even more interesting getting there.

  1. Jon Kramer says:

    Sounds like you’ve got a good message shaping up. I totally agree with you that I/we need to embrace humility when it comes to our rightness – there’s a lot of places where we’re probably missing the point.
    One of the things that really struck me in that story though was that the emotion of the disciples. I don’t think that they were necessarily stubborn and stuck in their wrongness, so much as they just couldn’t grasp the truth. It collided with too many of their paradigms to make sense. Personally, I think that it’s a similar case we face today in the church. It’s not so much that people want to be sexist, biased, and shallow – but more so that they don’t know how to remain true to “the faith of their fathers” and still follow Christ.
    So I struggle with knowing how much we ought to be harping on people and making them angry vs how much we ought to be simply working with people to spur them on toward love and good deeds. I especially struggle with this when it comes to monologue preaching – there’s no room for the dialogue and give and take that’s necessary to come to truth. Even though we as pastors open admit our susceptibility to wrongness, there’s really no way to get that across on Sunday Morning.
    Good Luck though! Hope you find a way to get through the tension.


  2. benyamen says:

    Ya, I agree with you totally that just making people angry for the sake of making them angry serves no point. Like I said, I don’t look forward to making people angry, but I do look forward to saying something that needs to be said that may make a few people angry. Fortunately we do have a system in place where people can talk through these issues and not just be spoken at. Most of the people in our church are in small groups and they go through studies based on the sermon of the week. They may not all talk with me on the subject but they will talk with eachother.


  3. bradmoffatt says:

    I really don’t think that you’ll make people angry. I know that it has the potential to but in reality most people aren’t going to care that much. Apathy. I know that this is a sad commentary of life in a church, but they won’t care too much (unless you mess with their thoughts on the carpet colour in the sanctuary or the prescious coffee maker that was purchaed for the kitchen that took two years to decide). When it comes to their righteousness and how they (we) think and act – I think this is something that needs to be constantly reiterated over and over and over again. One sermon will perk their ears up … but nothing more.
    I do believe that we need to be more concious of our righteousness and our attitude and we need to always be aware and prayerfully understandable on what we do and why we do it. I’m not sure if Sunday Morning is the place to approach it? ANd if you push it really hard – do you have the trust of the congregation (currency) to make this change?
    Here’s my concern – when you share on Sunday – will it be your words backed up by scripture, or scripture explained in your words? Your example of the two men walking on the road is a great example of what you want to get across – but is it what the text really was meant for? Will you be arguing your own opinion or will you be tactfully explaining scripture. In your ferver and passion – I don’t want you to lose the important truth that God does the work – all we need to do is “open their eyes”.
    Being a young pastor (myself included) it is my conviction that we speak in love and as a son speaks to his father … respectfully with conviction.
    I know I’m probably rambling here because I agree with what your thinking. And I know that you have enough wisdom to handle your thoughts in a respectable manner. I just think that the approach and study can be a little blurry when we come with our own attitudes and thoughts towards a certain scripture passage (if that makes sense).
    Furthermore – I think the sermon on the mount would be a great example of what you are thinking.?


  4. benyamen says:

    Just curious Brad – I’m not offended here – but are trying to nicely say that you think I’m twisting the passage to make a point rather than letting the passage make it’s own point? I have to be honest that I think this is the point of the passage. I wasn’t coming to this passage with an agenda. If you think it’s supposed to make a different point, what do you think that point is?


  5. bradmoffatt says:

    I don’t think you’re twisting the words around and I totally see you’re thought pattern in this text. Here’s my take on this passage (which isn’t far off from what you think):

    I see the disciples confused and frustrated. I see that their idea of Jesus was completely different than what it should have been. They told Jesus “he was a prophet”. They had to go home and explain to their friends and family that the person that they dropped their job for, left their home town for … was nothing but a good guy. They “hoped” that jesus would overthrow the government but it didn’t happen.


    Jesus laid into them, chastising them because they should have known different. He walked them through the O.T. and made it VERY clear that it pointed to Himself. Essentially he opened their eyes to a fresh perspective on scripture

    The opportunity you (and I) have on a Sunday morning is to give a fresh perspective of scripture. Our job is to encourage others to look at their actions, behaviours and motivation and see if it lines up with scripture. Like you said – this could make people mad – only if that’s an intent.

    I don’t think your interpretation of this passage is wrong and I can see where you are going. Here’s my concern; the two men didn’t have a clue that they were wrong. They weren’t putting their heels in and saying “it’s my way or the highway”. They were “downcast” which means their bubbles were burst. It seems to me that they weren’t being overly righteous – I see that they had the same perception that many of the other disciples had – and they needed a new perception.

    If we take this to our context – you started off saying that people might get angry by what you might say. It just seems to me that you are taking the position that the people you are talking to have already put their heels in (which isn’t like the text). This is why I would reference the sermon on the mount because Jesus says “you guys have been putting your heels in regarding murder, adultery … whatever … and now I will tell you the truth”. Those passages are “piss me off” passages because you can turn to your congregation and say “You don’t like guys with tattoo’s … but here’s the real deal” … for example.

    Yes, your congregation might be off on some things. Yes, their ideals are way off base. Yes they need to change their thoughts. But I think the text says that Jesus spoke harshly to them “your foolish” “you’re slow of heart” … but it couldn’t have been that harsh because they asked him to stay for supper. I think he was being lovingly guideful when he addressed these men … and in turn we should be “lovingly” guideful in how we (you and I) approach our role as Pastors behind a pulpit.

    Most people won’t even care … and the ones who you think might get mad – ask yourself “how can I lovingly, tactfully, respectfully share this truth to them so that they don’t get defensive but yet listen to what I (God’s word) has to say?”. There are times where we can be very, very blunt from the pulpit … my concern is if you have enough “currency” to do this? I know that at Faith … I probably didn’t have enough (even after 6 years) … but Barkman could because of his age and history.

    I hope that makes sense? I want you to know though – From a preaching perspective – I know you know all this. From a pastoral perpective – I know you know all this. I share this with you to keep you (and I) thinking about our motivation and putting yourself in the shoes of your congregation. I think this is important and something us as pastors forget sometimes.

    Anyways – Another topic;

    If you’ve read The Big Idea by Dave Ferguson (?) he approaches all of his sermons like this – asking friends to dialogue about certain text and ideas. I thorough enjoy talking to people about my sermons (whether they agree or disagree) I find it get my creative juices flowing. The past 3 sermons I’ve done I’ve gotten our staff to critique and brainstorm what I need to change or strengthen before I’ve shared it. It has been a great experience and I will start to do it more. I’d recommend it.

    Anyways – have fun doing your sermon. You always do a bang-up job. I hope your church knows how great of a communicator they have in you! Keep it real. Sorry for the lengthy e-mail



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