On Sunday I was given what I thought was a compliment after my sermon – “You sure know how to push the limits don’t you?” It was said from someone who meant it as a compliment, not a criticism.
Yet, today I’m wonder if it really is a compliment or is it something else.
What caused the statement to be said to me. I’m guessing it was a part of the sermon where I defended LGTB individuals as people. Sounds radical doesn’t it? I used something I blogged on this past week and added it to the sermon. Or maybe the statement came from the story I also used in the sermon about four women who went into a strip club to minister to the women who work there – women who no one else cares about. Regardless, the statement came. And since yesterday, I’m left wondering.
That’s because my supervisor and I are at the Festival of Homiletics. There are some amazing pastors and preachers here. Last night we heard two – one a pastor and seminary professor and the other a journalist. The sermon and lecture were simply amazing and they preached the Gospel – well beyond pushing the limits.
Partly that is because this is a group of pastors and soon-to-be pastors – you can go beyond pushing the limits with this group. What I realized is this: If the Gospel message is so life changing as pastors and soon-to-be pastors claim, then that means it is a message that doesn’t just push the limits, but breaks through the barriers completely. It’s a message that can’t be contained.
As we heard from Anna Carter Florence, we all want to find where Jesus has been carried off to (John 20 – Mary at the tomb trying to find Jesus on Easter morning) to we can find him and put him back in the tomb. That way we’ll be in control. But that’s not how Jesus works.
Likewise, we heard from Leonard Pitts, Jr. We heard an amazing message that touched on every issue we face today from anger to division and everything in-between. He talked about the radical nature of Christianity versus the less-than-radical thing going around in politics that wraps itself in a Christian label. What’s the radical nature of Christianity – doing what Jesus told us to do – feed the poor, wash the feet of the other, welcome the stranger, visit the sick and those in prison, etc. When you do these things instead of blame people and judge others, you will receive criticism. What a mixed up world we live in.
So I’m wondering, is pushing the limits enough? Tough to say. There’s no gauge standing next to you as you preach to let you know when you’ve gone too far. The context of the audience that is listening is unique. What would be too far at one location is only pushing the limits at another. And what is pushing the limits at one place is not even touching the issue at another. You just have to preach where the Spirit leads you to. Because in the end, it’s not me that is the one who changes people, but rather God. There’s a place and a community to everyone, but not everyone will fit into every place and every community.