Saturday, February 24, 2007

[THO] Wrestling with the Text

I'm guest preaching tomorrow at Hosanna Vineyard. I could speak on anything, but I really feel that it is important that I stick with the lectionary. So tomorrows gospel reading is the Temptation of Jesus from Luke. I've read, re-read, examined key passages in the Greek, compared Luke with Matthew and Mark (;-)), read the context, made a few pages of notes, prayed through the verse, read the accompanying texts from the lectionary and I have a direction but I'm arriving with fear and trepidation.

This is a special community and they are used to a different style of preaching. I'm not going to be hoping from verse to verse here, I'm going to deal with the text. My heart is that my message will be life giving to a congregation that has had a rough go of it the last year or so. I really don't care if my message is "polished" as long as it breathes something of the life of the Spirit in them. But having said that, I don't want to pull any punches. This is a tough text and I think they need a tough text. This is the text that situates Jesus' whole ministry - and those are the insights I want to draw from.

So here I am blogging and praying my way through the text. Trying to name some of my hesitations so that I can face them head on. If this text is what takes the newly baptised Jesus to the point of launching his public ministry then it has that same potential in us. At the very least it can direct us to the areas God wants us to mature in as we seek to be faithful to the calling on our own lives.

I have to be careful, in my community I can talk easily about political activism and social engagement. I know we've spent enough time talking about such things that people will get it. But here I am stepping into a conservative neo-pentecostal setting and bringing a message in a format they might not expect and with content that will challenge their worldview. Is it any wonder I am a bit timid? I want to be careful though, these are great people and a great church. I've hung out with them many times in the past which has been great. And they are a mixed community, my challenge will be to preach a message that engages with each of them, challenging them all to take a step further into a Kingdom lifestyle.

It is going to be fun, I better get my notes sorted out and practice my message. Please pray for me.


Tim Kantel said...

Hey Frank,

How did things do Sunday AM?

nakedpastor said...

great post. i'm preaching on that this coming sunday. i've been to that church. so how'd it go. Report!!!

One of Freedom said...

Hey Tim and David!

The service went very well. I really wrestled with this passage though as I believe it is foundational to our understanding of Christian maturity. As I prepared my message I had to haul in the reigns on my message several times. In the end I felt I was able to push the boundaries just a wee bit, enough that there was some new depth to the message and hopefully not too much that they would be regretting having me come share.

Folks who gave me feedback liked that I established a connection with Moses. Although I wasn't sure they got why that is an important connection (that is the ones who gave me some feedback). My argument is that if the Exodus is foundational to our understanding of the people of Isreal (identity) then this is foundational to our understanding of Christians (who take our identity from the life, death and resurrection of Christ). So my thesis was that this image of Christ is a picture of a mature Christian grounded in their identity. From there I examined each temptation:

1 - food (imminant needs) and the response is trust because we are convinced that God is imminantly present in every aspect of life. I talked about how this is an orientation. That what we are convinced of dictates what we will dare to do for God. So how we respond to human need depends on what we are convinced God wants to do - and I shared a story about a healing.

2 - worship and service are key here, and it is a choice between taking the easy way or embracing the cross. This is primarily where I had to tone things down, I could easily get into a social-political discussion on this one. But here I spoke about how God shows up in the mess and spoke about how in our community we throw new folks right into action without worrying about if they are saved yet. I shared about a young guy we baptised this year who has had a very messy journey, but one with God all over it. I encouraged them that things worth doing are often hard, take time and can be messy - but that the fruit was good and the fruit lasts!

3 - a committment to reality. In this one the devil decides to play Jesus' own game and throws out scripture at him. He is also trying to get Jesus to manipulate the situation, to force his own vision of reality on the people instead of being committed to working through the reality already present (trust me I didn't make it that complicated in my sermon). So Jesus refuses to test God. He bows to the Father's will and wisdom. This is important because it balances the first point, without it we can easily fall into a false triumphalism and miss what the Father is really doing. So I spoke about how amazing the invitation of God is and shared stories of how God has revealed his purposes after I had been faithful.

All in all I dropped one story and added two, finished up earlier than usual and went right into an extended outro worship set. Worship, I was leading that too, was really interesting. Halfway through it was getting "toasty" up there. I was afraid that I was going to be overwhelmed by God's presence. The feedback on worship was very encouraging, that church loves to worship in song! (In fact my kids have always called it the singing church).