Thing #1 Today was a good day at church. It is the first Sunday since returning from a mission trip to Albania (which was a profound trip, by the way), so I was anxious to be there. The sermon (remember, preaching is good, preaching is good) was about the parable of the Good Samaritan. Most of you know that story well, and even if you don't, you know what a "good Samaritan" is. Actually, if someone called your good deed an act of a "Samaritan," and you understood the historical relationship between Jews and Samaritans, then you might not be so humbled by their "compliment." To be a Samaritan in Jesus' day was not a good thing. The Jews perceived them similarly to how we today might perceive, let's say, a homeless, hillbilly half breed from the other side of the tracks (my apologies if you live on the other side of the tracks). The point of Jesus' story was that the person who got it right, the one who cared for the needs of the beaten and robbed man, was the hillbilly half breed, not the priest/minister/pastor, and not the pious, perpetually-volunteering churchgoer.
One strong point Andy, the preacher at my church, made was that our society is becoming more like the priest and the Levite: not that we don't care, but that our lives are so busy that the needs of our neighbors become invisible. We're so busy in our compartmentalized lives that we probably don't know our neighbors' names, let alone their concerns and needs. This is a problem for America, not just for Christians.
Thing #2 I was reading the July 22 issue of Christian Standard today at McDonald's (I took it from the church; Cincy's conservative, but not that conservative) because the title intrigued me: "Preaching: Like Everything Else, It's Changing!" The writer of the cover story, Chuck Sackett, is someone I respect a lot, so the article carried more weight for me (plus I knew I'd agree with his concerns about modern preaching). After expressing concerns about the long-term effects of using video and other media in sermons ("Might it be possible that too much video puts the mind to sleep and then the challenge arises to 'wake it up again' with 'mere' words?"), he asks this brilliant question: "Have preachers given up on words? Or have they merely lost the ability to use the right ones?"
Sure, compared to many other countries, most Americans have more of a "sprint" attention span than a "marathon" attention span. I think part of the reason is that we just don't try hard enough to engage people with wordsmithing. Yes, this blog is guilty of posting rough drafts and often ill-thought-out sentences. Lynne Truss wouldn't always be proud of me. But I try. I must try, because as a teacher (though presently without a classroom), I am a mechanic of the mind, and words are my tools. Our lives revolve around words. A person cannot "change their mind" without words. Without words, there is no persuasion, understanding of experience, conversion, debriefing, mutual understanding, apology, story, organization, or progress. So we might as well use words shrewdly.