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.”
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.