“How would you preach to a congregation where many people have advanced degrees?” I was asked the first time I met a group of leaders from FUMCB/ The Open Door. I leaned back, took a deep breath, and observed that people don’t need a lecture when they come to church but down deep most people are hungry for the Gospel. Then, I pointed to the preaching style of a certain carpenter’s son from Nazareth.
Jesus was always telling stories. Some of them had a message that was as clear as a bell. You couldn’t miss the lesson in the story if you tried! Some of the stories Jesus tells seem almost deliberately vague. Instead of turning on the lights that would help us see life and truth, it’s as if Jesus walks into the room and turns off the lights. The Nazarene tells a story, we’re confused, and find ourselves stumbling around searching for the light switch. “What did that mean? Who are the bad fish and who are the good? What in the world does a story about weeds in a field have to say to us when we’re wrestling with Gaza and legalized marijuana and children crossing the border and marriage rights?”
Truth is Jesus sometimes likes to make us work to find the truth. Like all great teachers, he wants to engage us. He doesn’t want to hand us truth on a silver platter. Jesus wants us to work because only when we work to find the pearl of God’s truth in a field of dirt, do we make it our own. So if you stagger out of worship and ask your neighbor, “What in the world did that mean?” perhaps we’re doing our job. 🙂
The other thing to say about the stories Jesus tells is that he likes to use everyday moments and things to point us towards eternal, life-changing, world-healing truth. On the surface of things, his stories often seem surprisingly simple. Jesus talks about weeds in a field, a wedding party with oil lamps waiting for the reception to start, a baker using yeast to make bread, a woman who loses some coins, a small seed becoming a bush big enough to throw shade.
I once heard about a preacher who -most Sundays- used some kitchen utensil or food item as an illustration for the Gospel truth. People, years after the pastor had moved on down the road, said they couldn’t work in their kitchens without remembering those sermons! They’d get out their sharpest knife and remember a sermon based on James about how careful we need to be with our tongues…our words. Simple things from the kitchen used to point people to deep truth.
Jesus was a story teller. You see that, especially, in Matthew 13. The Nazarene goes from one parable to another, barely taking a breath between stories.
The best story he ever told, of course, was the story he told with his life.
In Christ and for Christ,