Sermon of the Week:
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Keywords: Bible and Newspaper, Sanjeet Singh Saluja, The Love Commandment, Holy Spirit, God Moves as She Will.
Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-733469. All rights reserved.
One of the maxims we learn in preaching school
is to preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.
That maxim often attributed to a theologian named Karl Barth
who more likely actually said something like:
Take your bible and your newspaper. Read both.
But interpret your newspaper from your bible.[i]
The point of both of these sayings, it seems to me
is that you’re missing something if you try to understand what is going on
by just reading the bible, or by just following the news.
If you just read the bible, but don’t connect it to what is happening in the real world
to what is happening today,
then what kind of faith is that, really?
Something like doing math with no word problems,
no real world examples.
As if you would want to
“find the area of a rectangle of with the sides of 53.3 and 100”
instead of asking
“the sides of the football field are 100 yards long and 53.3 yards wide,
what is the area of that football field so that we can get enough sod for next week’s game?”
Math is math, but it helps us understand this actual world of ours better.
The same with theology, and this life of faith.
Read the bible, but connect it to what is happening in your life, in this moment.
And, on the other hand, reading the newspaper, by itself,
without connecting it to the deeper movements of life
to the larger purpose of a God that loves you, that inspires goodness
to a God that we meet in the person and the life of Jesus Christ…
we think that there’s something missing there too.
It isn’t so much that you can’t find ultimate meaning there,
or that God is ONLY found in the act of reading the scriptures…
anyone who has gone on a hike in the mountains at sunset knows differently,
anyone who picks up a newborn child for the first time
has surely experienced the awesome power of God.
But these stories of our faith,
which have nurtured thousands of generations of people
to help see and understand the God that is
moving and acting and mending and renewing in their midst,
these stories are here as a gift to help us do the same as well.
How could we understand the resurrection in its fullness
without the story of Thomas, for example,
that disciple who was out on a grocery run or who knows what
when the other disciples were locked in their apartment
worried and afraid after their leader had been arrested and killed
that disciple who missed it when the risen Jesus showed up and shared a word of peace
and set their worried hearts at ease…
Thomas is like all of us, in a way, not quite sure what to make of the testimony of others
“we have seen the Lord”
Uh uh, not me, not until I see him myself, and touch those wounds with my very own hands…
and Jesus, patient and apparently just fine with Thomas’ scientific inquiries
shows up just for him next week, overcoming Thomas’ skepticism with grace and compassion.
Or, again, how could we get our heads around the full impact of Easter morning
without thinking carefully about that story
of the disciples heading off Easter morning toward Emmaus,
how, again, the risen Jesus appeared to them on the road
and they didn’t see that it was him,
but they talked about what had happened
and Jesus tried to explain it all
but later, after they welcomed him to dinner
and they sat down and he broke the bread
and his familiar words flooded over their hearts
and they finally saw and understood and were burning with joy.
Those were a couple of the stories we read during worship in April,
as we move through this Sermon Series that I’ve been calling
“Because He Lives, there’s hope for you.”
And I remember that Barth saying, as I’m trying to make sense of this world of ours
by reading the news and trying to get my head around all of this pandemic mess we’re in.
The news has been largely dreadful, and we’ve been praying for those impacted by Covid-19
those who have died
those who haven’t but have lingering physical effects
and then their families and their neighborhoods too…
and local communities all over the country are trying to figure out what is the right balance
of prudent care through continuing to shelter in place
vs getting out into the world again,
and how to do that, you know,
mask or no mask…keep physically distant…stay home when you can
still stay with just your shelter-in-place family when you go outside…that sort of thing.
I’ve been worried by how hard it is for us to coalesce around good science,
and frustrated by how this has become a struggle between so-called liberty vs prudence,
instead of seeing how our greatest liberty is in exercising good choices
on behalf of the needs of others
and how the greatest prudence understands the complex costs in both staying home and going out.
So we might not want to read the newspaper all that much these days, is my point.
That’s been the case for a lot of people for a while now,
which means that Karl Barth’s idea of a sound sermon sounds like a real loser of a proposition…
except, maybe not so much sometimes.
Every so often, you see something, yes in the news,
that makes you gasp at its beauty and marvel at the meaning of it all.
So it was for me this week,
when I read the story about Sanjeet Singh Saluja,
a physician and the associate director of emergency medicine
at the McGill University Medical Center, up in Montreal Canada.[ii]
Did you hear the story about Dr. Saluja?
He is an adherent of the Sikh religion,
which is a faith that goes back to the Punjab region of India
and is distinct from the other religions often associated with that nation: Hinduism and Islam.