Amid weeks with more than their share of bad news, one story before the new year seemed like a glimmer of light in the darkness. The world grabbed onto it: Pope Francis comforting a boy as he grieved the death of his dog, telling the boy he’ll see his dog in heaven.
For mainline pastors, the Driscoll saga—the conflict at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church leading to the resignation of superstar pastor Mark Driscoll—can seem like a number of things: an entertaining but irrelevant sideshow, a distraction from the real work of God’s kingdom, or the long-overdue fall of someone whose theological views and ideology are so different from ours. We feel so distant from Driscoll and what he stands for that we can almost watch with bemused smiles.
And it’s just this sense of distance that might keep us for seeing this situation the way we should: as a cautionary tale.
When I read this passage from Luke I immediately remembered an exegesis paper I once wrote after reading an article by a doctor about what disease the woman might have. He concluded that she has a certain kind of arthritis—the same kind I had been recently diagnosed with. This gave me a sense of immediate connection with the woman in the story.
Such personal identification is homiletically useful.
Larry was my spiritual director for seven years, but when I moved from Durham, North Carolina, to Pittsburgh, I could no longer make the monthly drive. On my last visit, instead of lighting a candle and inviting me to sit with him in a time of silence, he suggested we take a walk.
Richard Lischer suggests that one of the ways to organize a sermon is around a “master metaphor”—that key image on which the sermon’s progress and structure can hang. More often than not, the scripture passage itself gives us the master metaphor.
If it’s difficult for listeners today to connect with the Bible’s injunctions against idolatry because our own idolatry looks so different, the metaphor of God as “fountain of living water” being forsaken for self-dug, cracked cisterns is striking.
I once read an article by a medical doctor who tried to identify the condition that kept the woman in Luke 13 crippled for 18 years. I don’t remember his methodology, and in retrospect it seems to me a dubious endeavor, but I was deeply interested in his conclusion: the woman suffered from an arthritic condition called spondyloarthritis.
When I first read Wendell Berry's 1985 essay "What Are People For?" 12 years ago, I was in college preparing to do exactly what Berry says that colleges prepare people to do—move to someplace that is not home and serve the economy. I read with academic disinterest his lament for the fate of the many "country people" who moved to cities and became unemployed.