Back in graduate school I was taught that the preacher should prepare for a sermon with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. The image originates with a 20th century theologian, Karl Barth, who wrote, “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” These days we can read the Bible and the newspaper on the same iPhone or other electronic device so it is even easier to flip back and forth between the news of the world and the good news of the gospel.
The news about Afghanistan, the UN Climate report, the surge in covid related hospitalizations has been so overwhelming that at times I just want to bury my head in the sand or delete all the news apps on my phone. I have spent all week trying to finish a 20 minute podcast on the climate report but I keep stopping it because it is painful to listen to the scientists’ latest research on extreme weather patterns that will devastate the land and people we love.
But when I flip back to the Bible, I read about Jesus, healing the sick and weeping at the grave of a friend and calling him back to life. I read the ancient prayers of God’s people crying out for divine intervention, “I am distraught by the noise of the enemy, because of the clamor of the wicked… I see violence and strife in the city.” (Psalm 55) I read about Moses confronting the injustice of Pharaoh “let my people go.” The Bible doesn’t seem to let us escape the pain of the world but rather demands that we engage in it honestly and see it through the lens of the loving creator of all life.
One of my mentors, Dr. Serene Jones, now the President of Union Seminary once told me that the pain of the cross is meant to wake us up to the pain of the world. I often think of that line when I stand at the communion table with you. Together, as a community of faith, we hear both the ancient words of scripture and the modern words of the news. And in the community of fellow travelers on the journey of faith, I discover the strength to listen for God’s voice and the courage to live out God’s truth, justice and love.
Grace and peace,