I forget which preacher I first heard say it, but the thought reverberates throughout the church and its practice (though it is not alone): “The longest distance in the world is the distance between the head and the heart.” It is the simple difference between knowing about something, and changing our lives as a result of that knowledge. So much of what passes for knowledge in this day is casual knowledge – things that we know that are nice to reflect upon around conversation but which do not really change how we live. There is a hunger for transforming knowledge – the type of information which totally shifts how we see ourselves and the world, and which gives us reason and purpose.
To look at our world is to see a people who believe that the greatest transformation comes through a pay increase, or an investment which turns one’s wealth into a comfortable fortune. “It’s the economy, stupid!” If only we knew the secret to wealth, we would be happy. All this amidst the dawning knowledge that our commitment to making and owning more things is killing the planet – and us.
Each Easter (each Sunday!?), we come face to face with the most transforming reality of all: the death and resurrection of Jesus. And yet for all intents and purposes it comes across as casual knowledge: nice information for sharing, but we go on with life as normal. Where is the seed of this malaise? If the Easter story is true, it transforms everything, reordering our priorities, revaluing risk, redefining love, and reforming our view of God. Yet how is it that the church often seems to be so ordered, so normal, so mundane? What is it that makes the gospel move that 40 centimetres from the head to the heart?
Preacher Walter Burghardt offers a personal insight: 'Our people are hungry for preachers who, like Magdalene, have seen the risen Lord. My darkest moments in homiletics are not when my theology is porous. My darkest moments are when I have ceased to pray - when the familiar phrases fall trippingly from my pen and tongue but it is all rote, prepackaged, with the life-giving juices dried up. My preaching is least effective when I experience nothing - neither God's presence nor his absence.’
The death and resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the awesome transforming power of God, so great that words fail, hearts tremble, and minds are confounded as we reflect on its reality. But most of all, let our hands and feet express it, let our thoughts and lives take flight: Jesus has risen!
April 8, 2007