By Joy Moore –
Preaching scriptural holiness means being unashamed in a post-theistic world to say there is a God. God is here. And wherever God is, there is life. There is hope because there is newness. Our job is not to start a revival. Our job is to be those who are revived, because we’ve encountered the Holy Spirit.
We are partnering with him to set captives free and to form a transformed community. That means that we must be able to speak truth to power, even when that power is the tribe we think we are a part of. It means that we must both seek personal and societal transformation, not as a political agenda, but as scriptural holiness. We are called to create communities who are disciples of Christ alone.
Scriptural preaching invites people to know that God loves every one of his creatures. Good preaching turns attention to the fact, in the words of Paul Young, God is especially fond of you. And me. And them.
The Wesleys described salvation as present deliverance from sin, a restoration of the soul. Scriptural preaching will help us to know what it is that the Lord requires: that we practice justice, that we favor kindness, and that we live so God is glorified. We are called to be a distinctive peculiar people who unashamedly stand for justice and righteousness in this broken and fallen world.
We have the responsibility of pointing to where God is right now on earth. We bear witness to the in-breaking that God promised. The kingdom is here on earth, and to not be ashamed of that is to be a witness to the transforming work of God. Through Wesley’s ministry, he demonstrated the message of Jesus through his ministry that salvation includes social and political and individual and spiritual dimensions.
The gospel compels the church universal to engage in social and political action for the least of these. We have this letter from a former terrorist turned church planter with a testimony of God’s transforming grace. He writes to a young man who risks abandoning the teachings of his grandmother. Since his childhood, Timothy has been the recipient of established Christian teachings and practices. It’s to him Paul describes faith as not individual belief in Jesus, but of a long tradition of beliefs and practices passed down from one generation to the next. The faith represents a legacy of traditions, of practices, and beliefs to which the people of God have always remained committed. Timothy is exhorted to remain committed to that old religion, that narrow road, that strange teaching. Paul knew a time would come when people would not tolerate sound teaching. In arrogance and pride we would collect teachers who say what we want to hear. We would choose to be identified by our race or our gender or our sexuality and political positions or geographic location and economic status. We would segregate by ethnicity.
There’s a practical reason why the Sunday morning hour is the most racially divided hour of the week. It’s because way back when the reformation divided us, they divided us first by our ethnic and national lines. The churches became divided – even the Baptist and the Methodist who originally were more integrated than any of the other denominations.
I’m glad to be part of a movement that placed a church in every county as citizens moved across the country. I’m glad to be part of this crazy idea of itineracy that we should practice our faith in a community of disciples, where we are, but we are part of a larger community of disciples. And we should get together every once in a while to share the transforming truth of God.
We too are divided by class and status. We’ve become more interested in our tribe than being God’s tribe. One day, every nation, every tribe, every tongue will come together at one table, because God is preparing a banquet for all of his children. On that day, we will kneel together before the Risen One and say that he is Lord. If you want to enjoy that eternity, we need to start practicing it right here and now. So the challenge for us to preach is not to preach our politics or to preach our ethnic group or to preach just the needs in our state at this hour. Instead, Paul told Timothy, preach the word and be ready to do it whether it is convenient in circumstances, sufferings, difficulty, hardship, in times of discomfort, in moments of anguish, when things don’t go your way, when the spouse walks out on you, when the bishop assigns you there, when your children go away, when the laws of the nation contradict the laws of God, when the denomination looks more like the nation than the people of God – in all circumstances.
Dr. Joy Moore is the lead pastor and ecclesial storyteller at Bethel United Methodist Church in Flint Michigan.