New Spirit, New People, New Words
May 26, 2014
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
Of all the tasks required of a parish priest, preaching might be my favorite. I enjoy the time spent with Holy Scripture, searching for fresh entrances into the texts, writing (and rewriting), and the opportunity to stand before the gathered community and proclaim the Word with words.
So, when I first received the invitation to preach in India, at an ordination in an Anglican diocese in companion relationship with my diocese in the States, I was thrilled! When they told me I would be preaching to roughly 4,000 people at the service, I was overwhelmed! There would be more people at the service than who live in my hometown in Missouri.
Then, the reality of the challenge set in. How would I, a native of the Southern U.S. of A., be able to convey the Good News of Jesus to a group of mostly Bengali speaking Christians (and Muslims and Hindus)? Looking over a batch of recent sermons, I discovered quotations from the writers Walker Percy and Flannery O’Connor, references to songs by Johnny Cash and Elvis, nods to films by Terrence Malick.
Without ever having realized it before, I discovered just how many assumptions I made about the people I ever encountered with the Good News. I wanted you to love Jesus, for sure. But it would help if we could also agree on Tom T. Hall, Kris Kristofferson and Mary Oliver, too.
I love Percy, O’Connor, Merton, Cash and Presley. But they would be no help in India. The only option was to go by myself, to take no assumptions with me except the hope (Dear God, please help me!) that the newness associated with Christ’s reconciliation could be translated from English to Bengali, from open hear to open heart.
Easter promises new things for us. It takes us, if not always literally, to “new” lands, to places where our old stories and scripts have to be set aside in order for us to hear again that it is the Christ’s work, not our own wit and wisdom, that we proclaim.
For a week, get your morning coffee at a new coffee shop. Take your daily walk on a new route. Listen to new people, look at new scenes. Visit a new store. Give thanks for the grace and mercies you encounter there.
Would be interested in reading the sermon you preached in India!