In honour of Robert Farrar Capon, who passed away last week, each morning this week I’m posting a quote or excerpt from his writings. Here’s something to challenge your thinking this morning:
Our preachers tell us the wrong story entirely, saying not a word about the dark side—no, that’s too weak—about the dark center of the Gospel. They can’t bring themselves to come within a country mile of the horrendous truth that we are saved in our deaths, not by our efforts to lead a good life. Instead, they mouth the canned recipes for successful living they think their congregations want to hear. It makes no difference what kind of success they urge on us: “spiritual” or “religious” success is as irrelevant to the Gospel as is success in health, money or love. Nothing counts but the cross.
Congregations are equally guilty. Preaching is a two-way street: what is said in a sermon depends every bit as much on the listeners as it does on the preacher. If the folks in the pews are constantly running old, happy-ending films inside their heads, they’ll make sure he or she gets the message that they’re not going to sit still for anybody who tries to sell them a dead God on the cross. The incompetence of it all is just too much for them.
I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills, spirituality pills, and morality pills, and flush them all down the drain. The church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God. What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross—and then be brave enough to stick around while it goes through the inevitable withdrawal symptoms.