Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

Russell Rocks

September 7, 2007

It was that point in the conference where people start coming to their senses. Where rational people catch hold of their runaway minds and bring things back down to earth. Where, even in an emergent conversation in the realm of world-class postmodern theologians Jack Caputo and Richard Kearney, someone needs to say ‘enough’ and move toward real-world practicalities. The whistle-blower was, ironically, a danged good postmodern theologian in his own right, but one who also balances his academic work with engagement in the church. So after several sessions, he kindly steered the conversation toward ‘hope’, calling a halt to all of this philosophizing and asking for a little rebuilding instead of only deconstruction. You know, moving us from Holy Saturday to Easter Sunday.

Which was really good and refreshing, and which was brought to an abrupt halt by a self-described ‘Baptist Preacher’ who said (something like), “Well, I think we need constant deconstruction. Most of us are quite good at building idols. We might construct one a day, in fact. So if we preach only one sermon a week, we ought to be pulling down those idols.” He waited just a second to let all of us catch up, then drove the point home: “I think the preacher’s job is to find the good news in a text and then hide it. For if I make it plain, it is too easily commodified. But if the truth is obscured, and if people have to put forth some effort to see it, then it has a chance to do its work.”

Which he certainly does, in his books and in his sermons (which are helpfully on iTunes, for computorial knuckleheads like myself).

Who never preaches for more than 15 minutes, and in fact preaches for only seven minutes on Easter? Who rails against a text on behalf of the people, instead of the other way around? Who throws down beat poetry, or pure, uninterpreted parable? Who gives the listener credit for being creative and intelligent? Whose sermons actually make you pay careful attention to the scripture reading before the sermon (which I usually listen to again after the sermon, if I’m not just going to listen to the whole sermon again)? Who has the courage to engage in a way that is a little aggressive, very brief, and incredibly arresting, week after week? My man Russell, that’s who.

Posted in:

3 Responses to “Russell Rocks”

  1. P3T3RK3Y5 says:

    thanks for all the podcast fodder… i’m all over it.

    i think i need some of that phyllis tickle you were talking about.

    This thought:
    “I think the preacher’s job is to find the good news in a text and then hide it. For if I make it plain, it is too easily commodified. But if the truth is obscured, and if people have to put forth some effort to see it, then it has a chance to do its work.”

    reminds me of Sting from his “All This Time” DVD when he says; “Songs have to be simple. They can have a subtext which you can find. But you shouldn’t be singing about an issue. You shouldn’t be saying down with this or down with that. That’s just journalism. Art is something else, something veiled. I often feel that songwriting is about putting yourself into a state of receptivity or, to be more cosmic about it, a state of grace where the song can reveal itself to you.”

    both of these speak to me of telling a story… a story that speaks of truth by glancing at it from a oblique angle…

    (vice attempts at capturing truth in boxed form)

  2. [REDACTED] says:

    A Bobo would Russell Rathbun.

  3. [REDACTED] says:

    A Bobo would forget to put the word “like” in a comment.

Leave a Reply