Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Morning Preacher: Ears to hear

Over on the Internet Monk, they have a regular feature called Difficult Scriptures in which readers are invited to work together to illuminate scriptures.

Last week's offering was Matthew 22:14: "For many are called but few are chosen." I decided to comment on this one because of the remarkable thing I had noticed the last time I had to preach on that passage: that the few who are chosen are the ones who don't come to the banquet, or the one who is kicked out for being improperly attired.

I mean, look at it: "Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests." (v. 10) Does that sound like only the few chosen ones will be allowed in to you? So where on earth did we come up with the deeply ingrained notion that it's so important to be among the few chosen ones?

I could use this example to rail against prooftexting: picking a verse (or quotation) out of context to support your previously held position. But that's not what this is really about. It's more that it is hard to read the Scriptures with an eye and ear to what is actually there rather than what you expect to be there.

This is one of the reasons why preparing a sermon is (or ought to be) such hard work. It's so hard to get past the preconceptions I bring to the text. But it is so wonderful when it cracks open and I see some new light.

I don't know how you learn (or teach someone) to be open and to struggle when the meaning seems so cut and dried. I only know how important it is to have ears to hear before I have words to preach.

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