Where there is no vision, the people perish. Proverbs 29: 18
… and he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6: 34
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required. Luke 12: 48
Demagoguery is not preaching Christ.
Protecting priestly privilege is not preaching Christ.
Pandering to your parishioners is not preaching Christ.
Pandering to your brother and sister clergy is not preaching Christ.
Pandering to political parties and secular powers is not preaching Christ.
Protecting your career and advancement in the Church is not preaching Christ.
We are like sheep without a shepherd. In fact, we are more than like sheep without a shepherd. We are sheep without a shepherd. Telling us how to vote is not telling us how to live. It does not equip us to be the salt and light that bring the Kingdom. It does not grow our faith in Christ. What it does is gather political power to the person who is telling us how to vote.
We are lied to, manipulated, whipped up into hatred and degraded with cheap slogans instead of intelligent dialogue by the media, the two political parties and the various candidates. We don’t need more of the same coming at us from the pulpits in our churches.
We need Christ and Him crucified. We need clergy who will preach the revolutionary, civilization-building, soul-saving Gospel of Christ in all its fullness.
When clergy panders to politicians, no matter where they begin, they end by whittling the Gospels down to the parts that they can twist to support the political agenda of the party or politician they are following. They usually leave the cross over their altars, but they might as well not. Your god is who you obey. Your god is who you follow. If these failed shepherds were being honest, they would remove the cross from their churches and replace it with the Republican elephant or the Democrat Donkey.
Right-wing preachers, who toady to the Republicans, either ignore or belittle the calls for social justice that pertain to the poor in particular and everyone who is in need in general. They basically dropkick the Sermon on the Mount off the front step of their churches. They pull verses and even parts of verses out of context to justify and support blatant corporatism and the economic destruction of the people in order to enrich those who control the political party they follow.
Left-wing preachers, who toady to the Democrats, carry this a step further. Rather then using proof texts pulled out of odd places in Scripture to justify themselves, they tend to obliterate the whole book.
These folks are big on applying literary criticism to the Bible. This method of scriptural analysis is the systematic application of fantasy involving a confabulated “Q Document” and weighty-sounding but baseless judgements based on authorial style and voice. It’s a kind of web-spinning that produces wordy exegesis that is simply a theoretical construct erroneously presented as hard fact.
This convenient acceptance of literary criticism calls the entire Bible into question. It provides the intellectual gloss for what is simply cherry-picking the Gospels for the parts you find consistent with your secular values. Scripture that demands justice and sets limits on our sexual and social behavior is expunged.
Left-wing preachers drop-kick the law. Their right-wing mirror images drop-kick the prophets.
Between these two sets of bogus shepherds, there is nothing of the Scriptures left. They have successfully edited and challenged the entire Bible out of relevance to today’s society. They have obviated everything that gives them the right to hold their jobs.
Is it any wonder that everyone from atheists to zealot pro-abortionists flings proof texts at Christians? They take these verses out of context and apply them ignorantly, true. They have zero knowledge of how the whole of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation fits together to tell a single, albeit convoluted, story. They certainly don’t see that the Bible is always, no matter how far afield it may seem to go, about Jesus Christ. They’re ignorant, and they can be almost comically bombastic, but it’s hard to get really mad at them. After all, they learned to do this from our own clergy.
We are not like sheep without a shepherd. We are sheep without a shepherd. We’ve got lots of preachers. We’ve got them on television, making millions and preaching a heretical political gospel of greed. We’ve got feel-good preachers, giving us a Hallmark card Jesus made of cotton candy and sticky glue. We’ve got others reviling, slandering and attacking those on the other side of whatever political spectrum the preacher in question supports. We’ve got them hanging out in their rectories, living cozy lives and getting by without ruffling feathers.
Pick your flavor. There’s a preacher out there who will give you a phony jesus to match.
Today’s church has reduced Calvary to an Easter egg hunt and a pretty pageant. It has sanitized the scandal of our God Who was subjected to the most shameful disregard society could mete out; Who was left weak and piteous, Who appeared helpless; a criminal.
The cross was shameful then and it’s shameful now. Jesus was not only wrongly convicted, he was beaten nearly to death; tortured, mocked, reviled and when He hung on the cross in agony, His tormenters stood at its foot and made fun of Him, mocked Him the more.
The cross is shameful, embarrassing, hard. Christ and Him crucified is the whole message of the Bible. If you don’t preach that, you are not preaching at all.
I think it’s pertinent to our discussion that Calvary was an actual event in history. The blood was real. The pain, humiliation, helplessness, degradation were all real. They happened. Jesus was flesh and bone, just like any of us. He felt every single bit of it. He endured both the physical pain and the psychological death of the aloneness of being weak and helpless in the hands of human monsters.
The people who did this were a bunch of lying priests and a cowardly politician, all of whom put their careers, their power, their vaunting self-importance, ahead of doing what was right.
We live in a world where it’s getting harder to follow Jesus with each passing day. Christians are slaughtered in a genocidal fury in many places, subjected to overt discrimination, harassment and constant fear of worse in many others.
Here in America elected officials are scolded if they mention Christ in public. The name of Jesus is subjected to public ridicule and mockery. Rank and file Christians of every denomination feel compelled to self-censor their speech concerning their belief in Christ to avoid being belittled, shunned and perhaps endangering their employment.
This is our cross. We have been running away from it and we’ve got to stop. We must, in the name of Jesus, take up these challenges, which are the challenges of our time in history. It is not shameful to be attacked and belittled for following Jesus. it is an honor and a privilege. It is a blessing.
We need shepherds who will tell us this. We need shepherds who do not pander, are not demagogues, who are indifferent to both of the two political parties. We need shepherds who do not care about their privilege and self-importance, who are willing to put ambitions for their careers aside. We need shepherds who follow Christ, even if it is to the cross. We need shepherds who will preach Christ and Him crucified.
I give you a promise. I promise that if you stand up for Jesus, you will pay a price. I promise that if you preach Christ and Him Crucified, some of the people in your congregation will get mad at you. Your advancement in the Church may be limited due to your “fanaticism.”
For those of us who are not clergy, I promise the same. True discipleship of Jesus is, has been, and always will be about the cross. It is never a way to get rich or do well in this world.
We follow a King. But His crown was not a crown of gold and jewels. His crown was of thorns.
Today’s equation goes to the heart of the only solution that will lead our society out of its death spiral.
Preach Christ = Preach Christ crucified.