Faith: Making scripture relevant to current events
Even the well-known parables can challenge us if we look at them in light of new or changed circumstances.
WORTHINGTON — Karl Barth, a well-known 20th century theologian, once said that we should “preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” He was making the point that preachers, actually all Christians, need to make the words of scripture relevant to the current situation.
These days it is not just the newspaper, but Facebook, Twitter, CNN, Fox News, and numerous other sources of contemporary culture we need to be familiar with.
I thought about that quote as I was studying a Bible passage for a recent sermon. Jesus was asked to respond about a recent horrific event that was intended by the perpetrator to be as offensive to others as possible. Jesus’ response was not the outrage the questioner expected. He compared it to another tragic event and used it as an occasion to teach those who were listening.
Jesus often told parables as a way to teach. Some of his parables are fairly well known, such as the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, while others may not be as well known. Yet, even the well-known parables can challenge us if we look at them in light of new or changed circumstances. One time we might find ourselves thinking about how we are like one of the brothers in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The next time we might compare ourself to the other brother.
In light of the parables, I got to wondering what Jesus might say about some of our current events like the war in Ukraine, the Supreme Court nominee hearings, or the storms going through the southern states. Would Jesus tell us it is OK to demonize some individuals, especially if we dislike their positions or what they are doing? Would Jesus encourage us, in righteous anger, to take matters into our own hands? Or might Jesus tell us a parable that invites us to examine our motives and lives and where we might need to repent?
Sometimes the concept of repenting gets a bad rap. We may think of phrases like repenting with sackcloth and ashes. We sometimes get the impression that repenting involves beating ourselves up over what we have done wrong. The truth is that repenting really means accepting God’s invitation to turn from our current path and return to the path that leads to God. It is an acceptance of the offer of unmerited grace from the one who created us and loves us.
One of the things I am certain about is when God wants to say something, it is said. When God wants to invite someone, someone is invited. If God wants to offer a hand of support to a person, a nation or even the world, God is pleased when that hand is grasped by faith.
During this season of Lent, God invites us to ponder the events of the world in light of Christ’s teaching. God invites us to examine our lives in light of what Jesus taught us. The question is, how will we respond to that invitation?
Rev. Galen Smith is pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Worthington.