“[Why] is preaching important? It develops an imagination adequate to embrace revolution” (Eugene Peterson in As Kingfishers Catch Fire, p 52).
Does this Eugene Peterson quote fire your imagination? Or at least your question-making machine? What kind of preaching develops our imagination? What would it mean to “embrace” revolution? And exactly what kind of revolution does Peterson have in mind? Here are my answers. What are yours?
What kind of preaching/teaching/writing inspires my imagination? The kind that:
- brings God, the cosmic creator, to life.
- is vulnerable and personal.
- emphasizes my place in the Kingdom of God, here and eternal.
- encourages living simply and sharing so that others can also live.
- points out the abundance of God’s love, not the scarcity.
- motivates me to see Jesus as my model, my reference point, my master teacher; preaching that pushes me to live the Way of Jesus is truly the Word of God.
- holds me responsible to live as a Christ-follower in a time of lies and corruption.
- inspires love and compassion for all.
And what is the revolution that this kind of preaching inspires? It is a revolution that inspires me to live like Jesus. It is a way of living that turns the world upside down. It is a passion that fires my imagination to live the kind of life I am meant to live. It is a revolution led by Jesus Christ, the Lord – not Jesus the infant. It is a consciousness that “sees” who Jesus really is. Who is the real Jesus? Henri Nouwen says that the Beatitudes offer us a “self-portrait” of Jesus.
“Jesus is the Blessed One. And the face of the Blessed One shows poverty, gentleness, grief, hunger, and thirst for uprightness, mercy, purity of heart, a desire to make peace, and the signs of persecution. The whole message of the Gospel is this: Become like Jesus. We have his self-portrait. When we keep that in front of our eyes, we will soon learn what it means to follow Jesus and become like him” (Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey).
Jesus told us all how to live when he recruited the original disciples to a revolutionary lifestyle: “Follow me.”
And finally, what does it mean to “embrace revolution”? Read the four Gospels and the book of Acts; you can’t miss it. “Embrace” means giving everything to the cause. It means recognizing that Jesus is the Authority we must obey. It means living deeply from the well of God’s love and the Spirit’s guidance, not sipping occasionally from a bottle of water. It means being “all in” (to steal the title of Chris Hayes’ powerful MSNBC show). It means joining the battle described in the third verse of Onward Christian Soldiers – a song which is rightly criticized for its militaristic images, but which also speaks of the fervor we need to have for our cause:
Like a mighty army
Moves the Church of God:
Brothers [and sisters], we are treading
Where the saints have trod;
We are not divided,
All one Body we—
One in faith and Spirit,
I pray that the world-wide Church will preach or teach or write so that each Christ-follower catches the spirit and the imagination to embrace Christ’s revolution!