Theological Wisdom for Preaching and Teaching, Issue 90
July 8, 2016 by Presbyterian Foundation
Theological wisdom (and theological foolishness) is not the private preserve of professional theologians. Many contemporary novelists deal sensitively with religious themes, often offering provocative insights that pastors can use to good effect in preaching and teaching. Brief quotes do not do justice to the novels from which they are taken, but they can provide wise, often startling, sometimes humorous, but always thought-provoking resources within sermons and adult education.
From time to time, the Presbyterian Foundation shares some wisdom from novels as a small contribution to pastors who seek to proclaim the gospel faithfully week in and week out.
On the Bible:
The Bible stored inside of Peter was pure and unadulterated, not a word of it confused with anything else. And yet, for the first time, he was ashamed of it. The holy book he’d spent so much of his life preaching from had one cruel flaw: it was not very good at offering encouragement or hope to those who weren’t religious.
Michael Faber, The Book of Strange New Things
Eccles comes down the aisle shuffling behind a flood of acolytes and choristers. Up behind the altar rail he looks absentminded and grouchy, remote and insubstantial and stiff, like a Japanese doll in his vestments. The affected voice, nasal-pious, in which he intones prayers affects Rabbit disagreeably; there is something disagreeable about the whole Episcopal service, with its strenuous ups and downs, its canned petitions, its cursory little chants. He has trouble with the kneeling pad; the small of his back aches; he hooks his elbows over the back of the pew in front of him to keep from falling backward. He misses the familiar Lutheran liturgy, scratched into his heart like a weathered inscription. In this service he blunders absurdly, balked by what seem willful dislocations of worship. He feels too much is made of collecting the money. He scarcely listens to the sermon at all.
Jon Updike, Rabbit, Run 
Putting together the Monthly Bulletin was the drawing of a short short straw. She’s never paid much attention to the little magazine, but now that she did, she was appalled. Senior Spotlight. Look, the seniors are going to Concord Mills outdoor mall on a field trip. God be praised. Calling all young adults! Hoops4Him. “Basketball for Jesus, really?”
“That’s an interchurch activity. We’ve been doing Hoops4Him for years. You don’t approve?”
“Don’t recall the 12 disciples playing one-on-one.”
The Book Group was reading some piece of Christian fiction with a serial killer in it. The Covenant Class was renting and discussing Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. It’s time for the Young Men’s Retreat. Between bouts of sock wrestling, log throwing, skeet shooting, and paintball war, 15 young men of the faith will grow closer to each other and to God. Participation fee $45.
“I don’t suppose any slight hint of working toward Christ’s kingdom could trickle into our scheduled activities for our congregation.”
“Hey, the church is getting along again. Bonding. All this is good.’
“No, it is not good. What are we? Cruise directors?”
Wilton Barnhardt, Lookaway, Lookaway
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is investing in a range of projects designed to create conditions for peace in Israel/Palestine. Learn more about the program and its impact.
Positive Investment Overview – short from Presbyterian Foundation on Vimeo.
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More and more Americans find that the only check they write is their offering to the church. Those in younger generations may not even use a checkbook – preferring to handle all of their contributions and bills electronically. When your church passes the offering plate on Sunday morning – are you limiting your offering to pocket change from those who feel obligated to put something in, but would give more with an online option? Learn how your church can easily begin accepting electronic gifts through the Online Giving Program.