A preacher’s task is to find the good news in scripture and proclaim it.
This is not a hard thing to do—if you get to pick out your own scripture. Facebook witnesses to an entire theological world view based on uplifting, inspirational quotes cherry picked from scripture and type set over photos of sunsets.
However, for many Protestant preachers like me, especially in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, each week the preacher is handed a scripture they did not choose. Instead, those of us who preach the Revised Common Lectionary commit to faithfully embrace the task of preaching, regardless of what we’ve been given. No sidestepping, no explaining away, no “hey, look it’s a bird…now let’s talk about how much Jesus loves you!”
A faithful preacher must take it all—judgment, challenge, discomfort, division, destruction, death—and engage in the gut-wrenching struggle to find and proclaim the good news in the midst of it.
This is not a hard thing to do. This is an awful, exhausting, heart-breaking, and ultimately dangerous task (if the life of Jesus is any indication). Bishop Michael Burk of the South Eastern Iowa Synod put it in this way as he preached to a room full of preachers this fall, “Jesus came to ruin your life.”
And still, I hear something within me saying, “It is worth it.”
In life, the vast majority of us get what is handed to us and we just have to deal with it. For all followers of Jesus, preachers or not, the task still remains to find the good news to share and a voice with which to proclaim it.
And so, we need a good news that does not go around, but straight through. We need a good news that peels back every painful layer until we get to the heart of the matter, where the healing can finally begin. We need the good news that ruins the way things are right now to make way for something new.
Because this good news is the good news that will preach to real life. For the worst moments. For the most trying times. To the ugliness around and within. To death itself.
I look down at the scripture in my hands and I honestly don’t know what to do with what I’ve been handed this week. I don’t want to give thanks for the mess Jesus is promising to make of my life. But still I find myself beginning the task of preaching once again. The good news must be in there somewhere, because I trust deep down that Jesus really, truly is present in this life.