Friday, August 20, 2010

Passages I've Never Heard Preached

I love when I experience or hear something that leaves me saying, "That will preach." On the other side of that coin, however, are those passages I come across in scripture that leave me saying, "I've never heard anyone preach that passage." Let's face it, there are some really odd passages that most pastors don't cuddle up to and say, "I've got to preach that."

Take 2 Kings 2:23-24 where it says, "From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town an jeered at him. 'Go on up you baldhead!' they said. 'Go on up you baldhead!' He turned around and looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youth."

Have you ever heard that preached? I must say, if the pastor was bald-headed, he may be more prone to preach it. It's also a nice discourse on the mob mentality of some youth and what can result from such unruly actions and attitudes.

And then there's Mark 14:51-52. "But the commander replied, 'Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the men sitting on the wall - who, like you, will have to eat their own filth and drink their own urine.'"

Say what??? Stop for a moment and see what kind of word picture comes to your mind. Yuk! Another passage that may hard to preach, wouldn't you say?

Then there is the passage that possibly motivated many a young high school or college student when it says, "A young man wearing nothing more than a linen garment was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind." (Mark 14:51-52) Is this the first documented case of streaking?

And finally there is the odd passage of Psalm 137:9. "...he who seizes your infant and dashes them against the rocks." What on earth are we supposed to do with that gem?

Where do these passages leave us? What can we possibly take away from them? Two things strike me here. First, we must be careful to ever say, "I know scripture and I've got God all figured out." I don't think that's possible. There is and should always be, in my mind and heart, a sort of holy mystery to scripture. There should always be a process where scripture is being revealed to us. When we think we have arrived, then darkness is soon to follow. That's why I love the term, "living Bible."

Secondly, we are sometimes guilty of grabbing onto a passage and sticking it in someone's face saying, "See, it's in the Bible!" We call that "taking it out of context." And usually when I see that it makes me sick. We are always wise when we ask, "What was going on here? Who are the characters? Is God or the writer speaking to believers or unbelievers? How does it fit into today's church and society?" If we took everything at face value as we take a passage out of scripture, women would be sitting in the back of the church and all have their heads covered.

As a pastor, I try to be clear as I preach and counsel that I don't know everything. I have even told people if they hear a pastor say he or she has it all figured out, "Run for the hills." God can and does use scripture to guide us in our lives. And as we seek to grow in our faith, we should always use caution, bath it in prayer, and seek the Holy Spirit when we use God's Holy Word.

Gotta go, I've got a bald-headed message to prepare!