After 40 years of preaching, 50 years of listening to sermons, I have come to the realization that there is not much new to say about the Bible, God, Jesus, Church, etc. As the wise old preacher in Ecclesiastes (1:9) put it:
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. (NIV)I came to this not-so-new-or-unique thought sitting in church last week. The First Lesson was from the Hebrew Bible where Moses chooses a group of Elders to assist him at God's urging. It was the text for the sermon from a younger pastor. His message was well done, nicely put together and right on target. It was, however, enough to make me sit up and pay attention.
It was the same message I heard preached when I was a new Christian in my teen years. It was the same message I heard in my Old Testament class.
It was the same message as I preached every few years.
Sure there were different illustrations and contexts, but the message was always the same based on the same interpretation with the same goals in mind.
At first I was disappointed. I wanted to hear something new, something unique, something exciting and challenging for the 21st Century. "Come on," I thought, "you can do better than that. Say something new."
At which I almost started to laugh. How can he say something new and unique about a 3000 year old story!?! The story hasn't changed. The need for what the story tells hasn't changed. Only the audience has changed.
Plus (and this was really humbling!) we haven't done such a great job of putting it into practice. In spite of my sermons and the countless others on this passage, not much has changed.
There is nothing new under the sun.
Twenty years ago James Hillman wrote a provocative book titled, We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy--And the World's Getting Worse When some more conservative pastors I was with heard that title they smugly responded with a kind of "See. Psychotherapy isn't all it's promoted to be."
I just smiled back and said "We've had 2000 of years of Christianity and not much has changed."
I had to learn that again last Sunday. The world of human nature doesn't change much from generation to generation. Human nature pretty much remains human nature. The message is the same.
We just have to keep saying it.