A dumb question I have been meaning to ask

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I have had question on my mind for a few weeks that I have only recently decided is worth asking.

Is it important that we speak compellingly about Jesus?


The answer might seem obvious. Of course, as a Christian church, we need to speak compellingly about Jesus.

And yet, I don’t hear that many preachers–even good ones–speaking compellingly about Jesus. I don’t know of many dioceses in which Episcopalians are being taught to speak compellingly about Jesus, and even when people say that we need to preach the Gospel, I experience this as a call to spread certain values, rather than as an invitation to figure out what Jesus was up to.

I am not an evangelical. And I understand the contemporary seekers might not immediately be interested in a set of Christological propositions. I am aware that the Bible has been used as a club against minorities and marginalized people of all kinds. Still, if we aren’t offering people a deep and abiding encounter with Jesus, then I don’t understand what we are up to as a church. To my ears, we don’t sound like a church that takes this encounter as its reason for existing. But perhaps I am wrong about our purpose, or am not listening to the right people.

Thoughts?

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Sara Miles
Guest
Sara Miles

A while back, I was talking with one of our parishioners about how hard she found it to engage with what she calls “Jesus-y” preaching. “Well, I’m pretty Jesus-y myself,” I said. I'd just given a homily about the realness of Jesus, and what it means when he says "my flesh is real food" and invites his followers to chew and swallow him.

"Yes," she said, "but I enjoy your sermons. It’s like listening to someone with a rare and extremely interesting mental illness.”

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peek
Guest

Once again, I give thanks for my rector. His compelling preaching, about Jesus even in his many guises, is what has led me to explore more deeply my faith, my relationship with God, and how both feed and are fed by my daily life. I'm sorry to read that his example is not the norm.

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Leslie Scoopmire
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Preaching about Jesus is why we are. What would make preaching about Jesus compelling? I like the point about discipleship made above, as well. What about the message of Jesus resonates with us? What do we mean by salvation? So many American churches that are popular talk about thus in certain terms such as hell and heaven. To me, Jesus saves us every day and calls us to act, and this is a gift.

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Peter Pearson
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Peter Pearson

Good question. Like Paul, we must struggle with Jesus, the Lord Jesus, Jesus Christ, and Christ Jesus. Not all of these are exactly the same and a closer look will reveal that in each is an implied meaning which is packed quite densely. Unfortunately, because of the failures and foolishness of the church over the years, these words begin to sound to our audience like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons: "Whah, whah, whah."

Our challenge is to speak about Jesus Christ in ways that are credible, fascinating, and compelling. This is no small task.

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Richard E. Helmer
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Richard E. Helmer

Jim,

Thanks for the provocative question! Despite being in one of the most unchurched parts of the country, Jesus has never been one of my problems. That is to say, people find Jesus compelling enough.

What I find challenging is making discipleship compelling -- over the grasping, materialism, and hyper-busyness that blights so many of our lives. How do we follow Jesus into the life of God? How do we inspire one another to do he same? These days, that forms the bulk of my work.

If that doesn't connect to our Eucharistic practice, gathering in community, theological conversations, prayer, and preaching, I start to worry I'm wasting my time...and everyone else's.

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