The Push to Eloquently Say Nothing

In today’s postmodern world with its severe reaction to the certainty that modernity seemed to have, there is in some quarters a great conflict with saying anything. Everytime you say anything there are some who would question the very idea of saying anything. You cannot know…whether it is the parishioner who says, “You cannot know my circumstances” or the philosopher who says, “Your appropriation of Truth is always clouded by your social circumstances!” Or, you need to open your eyes to other possibilities.

All of this points to the elimination of saying anything. It is those who do not have the burden of saying anything that often attack those who do. They sit behind keyboards and pews and attack the preacher not for being wrong, but for having the audacity to say anything. “You shouldn’t touch that preacher….” “That ain’t got nothing to do with religion Reverend….” They want the preacher to stay out of the real world. They want the preacher to not critique society when it is going against the inbreaking kingdom of God. They want the preacher to stay out of the music I listen to, the movies I watch, and the job I work in. They want the preacher to stay safely in the pulpit once a week where I come to shout about a God that doesn’t affect my daily living.

But We Have Been Called to Say Something
This is certainly a problematic idea for those of us who have been called to preach a certain word in this world. It pushes us to do one of a few things. We either attempt to find something, however small, that we all can agree on. That something can degenerate into the trivial. We might preach all of our sermons on the idea of “God loves you” Without providing any definition of love, you, or even God. To define these words would place us in the same boat of alienating those who have drunk, swallowed, and digested from the well of postmodernity.

 

Modernity is not the Answer

But then another road is to fall back into modernity. Forgetting the drawbacks of modernity and not recognizing that post modernity did provide a good corrective of the idea that “we know” with certainty. Yes post modernity is right in that it challenges us to recognize how social location affects our appropriation of the truth. But preachers and prophets must say something. Post modernity teaches us that even when we are sure of something, we still must recognize that our social location has at least helped us to this point. We must recognize that we can’t see all and that even at our best, we still will fall short of the full glory of God. But we can’t allow this truth to take away from us our job. Which is to share the news of an inbreaking kingdom that is as problematic to modernity as it is to post-modernity.

Teach what you know….Tell the truth….You may be wrong, but the last thing we need is a scared prophet who is simply gonna fall back into a noisy silence that helps nobody and simply is a spiritual fix of emotional exertion that does not help anyone make it in a world that is moving closer to its climax.

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Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

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Revised Common Lectionary
5th Sunday of Lent (February 26, 2017)
  • OT: Ezekiel 37:1-14
  • Psalm: Psalm 130
  • Epistle: Romans 8:6-11
  • Gospel: John 11:1-45
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