Craft of Preaching

Dear Working Preacher

Insights, ideas and inspiration related to the coming week's lectionary texts.

Salvation Today

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"Turned To The Sun" image by Anne Reeves via flickr; licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.


“Today salvation has come to this house.” Mic drop.

But, of course, not everyone is happy when salvation shows up. Good news for some is not necessarily good news for another. Because when salvation comes to this house, it may mean it has not come to yours. Or if salvation comes to your house, you might wonder why not to your neighbor’s. Just when will salvation show up, exactly? Will we wait until it appears and then invite it in?

After all, we only have to wait sixteen verses before salvation will ride into Jerusalem. Or, will we decide waiting is overrated at best and painful at worst? Will we decide that we are done waiting for the Kingdom of God to come and start making it happen? Will we decide that maybe Jesus needs us as much as we need him when it comes to making salvation an actual presence in our lives?

The story of Jesus and Zacchaeus suggests that salvation is reciprocal. Yes, salvation shows up in the very presence of Jesus. Salvation happens when Jesus sees the unseeable. When Jesus finds those who may try to hide so as not to have their sin exposed. When Jesus regards those who think salvation is most certainly not for them. But, salvation also shows up when we do what Jesus himself does -- welcome the other, be with the other, be known by the other. Salvation as solidarity. Salvation as hospitality. Salvation as ministry.

In his most recent column, “The Power of the Dinner Table,” New York Times columnist David Brooks tells the story of Kathy Fletcher and David Simpson.

“They have a son named Santi, who went to Washington, D.C. public schools. Santi had a friend who sometimes went to school hungry. So, Santi invited him to occasionally eat and sleep at his house.”

“That friend had a friend and that friend had a friend, and now when you go to dinner at Kathy and David’s house on Thursday night there might be 15 to 20 teenagers crammed around the table, and later there will be groups of them crashing in the basement or in the few small bedrooms upstairs.”

“The kids who show up at Kathy and David’s have endured the ordeals of modern poverty: homelessness, hunger, abuse, sexual assault. Almost all have seen death firsthand -- to a sibling, friend or parent.”

“It’s anomalous for them to have a bed at home. One 21-year-old woman came to dinner last week and said this was the first time she’d been around a family table since she was 11…Poverty up close is so much more intricate and unpredictable than the picture of poverty you get from the grand national debates.”

“I started going to dinner there about two years ago,” writes Brooks, “hungry for something beyond food. Each meal we go around the table, and everybody has to say something nobody else knows about them.”

“Each meal we demonstrate our commitment to care for one another. I took my daughter once and on the way out she said, ‘That’s the warmest place I can ever imagine.’”

“The problems facing this country,” says Brooks, “are deeper than the labor participation rate and ISIS. It’s a crisis of solidarity, a crisis of segmentation, spiritual degradation, and intimacy.”

“The kids call Kathy and David “Momma” and “Dad,” are unfailingly polite, clear the dishes, turn toward one another’s love like plants toward the sun and burst with big glowing personalities.”

“The gift of Kathy and David is the gift of a complete intolerance of social distance,” insists Brooks.[1]

Dear Working Preachers, I think Brooks is spot on. We need to turn to each other’s love and care and compassion like plants toward the sun. We need to be that love and care and compassion, that salvation, for others toward which they might turn. Who better to create solidarity, to mend segmentation, to stimulate spirituality, to insist on the importance of intimacy than the church? Than us?

If you are a Reformation preacher this weekend, you would be hard pressed to find a better message of what it means to be a reforming church than this. If you are a preacher in the United States, this is a message that might, albeit perhaps only for a moment, turn the dominant rhetoric around -- a rhetoric that has distanced and demoralized. A rhetoric that has staved off truth. A rhetoric that has pulled us apart with a reliance on accusation, sexism, racism, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and conspiracy theories -- toward salvation speech.

As church, we speak salvation speech. We speak into existence a different way of being. We speak Kingdom of God speech. Speech that sees the other. Speech that regards the overlooked. Speech that brings together. Speech that unites. Speech that creates community. Speech that gives life and says that salvation is here and now.

Dear Working Preachers, your preaching not only invites salvation into your particular house of God, but it also inspires others to be hosts of God’s salvific love.

We can and we are called to give the same gift as Kathy and David -- the gift of a complete intolerance of social distance. That sounds like salvation to me.

Karoline

 

[1] David Brooks, “The Power of a Dinner Table,” The New York Times, October, 18 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/18/opinion/the-power-of-a-dinner-table.html

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