The church today like the ancient church of Corinth must realised that the Holy Bible is truly the inspired and infallible Word of God in other to relieve our preaching disease, disorder, and weakening of the Gospel. The ‘juvenility’ of our faith in relation to our inadequate conceptions of God that prevent many catching a glimpse of the true God points to the disease in our preaching about ‘a God who is really too small to command’ our adult loyalty and co-operation. Fred Craddock rightly provides us the disease behind our preaching in the church today. According to him, “If there is a disease in preaching that I hear most often, it’s not that what the minister says is wrong. It’s that it is just too small.” If the preachers are not preaching wrongly and the church is declining and the world is loosing its moral and eternal compass, then the preaching of the Gospel about God is small, ‘inadequate and misleading.’
J. B. Phillips in one of his books, Your God is too small, A Guide to Believers and Skeptics alike, challenges our “conventional views about God … the constraints of traditional religion.’’ Phillips encourages us ‘to search for a meaningful redefinition of a higher power that is relevant to contemporary existence.’ The call to preachers is that, enough of using ‘the Bible itself to dodge having to make a clear and concise statement about a text,’ and call for repentance from sin. Preachers are called ‘to make memorable proclamation about a text’ in relation to human salvation. Preacher’s preaching exposes us for the theology we have, ‘it lays open how Scripture works in your own life. It uncovers your character, for good or for ill. You will be seen. So we lodge generalities about God that save no one or say nothing at all worth remembering.’ Disease in Preaching summons us to stop the common attitude of preaching and worship ‘to become a party to a piece of mass-hypocrisy and to buy a sense of security at the price of the sense of truth.’ Lent invites to stop disease in preaching that is producing ‘professing Christians with childish conceptions of God which could not stand up to the winds of real life for five minutes.’
The Gospel reading for today inspires us to reevaluate and connect more deeply with a God that is relevant to current experience and big enough to command respect and admiration (Jn.12: 20-33). Using the words of Martyn Atkins, Superintendent Minister, Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, ‘the Scripture is evangelistic.’ The Scripture is about the Good News of a big God who so loved the world that all may see Him through Jesus Christ. The Scripture is the power base for the preachers to arise and speak to the souls of men and women about a very big God who is always by our side. In the Gospel reading, the Gentile made a request which received a mystery answer. The mystery, ‘When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself,’ answers the request, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Why are the Gentile requesting to see Jesus? Are they just skeptics or just want to pick up a debate out of their boredom? Beloved, can you recognise the Gentiles’ request in your life? To want to see Jesus is to want his presence, his power, his anointing, his guidance, his example, and his companionship. It is also possible not to want him, when we shelve all spiritual desire and allow our faith to fade to decline and fade into the background of our life and consciousness. It is also possible to want him for his healing, power and renewal etc. To see Jesus beyond face level is not a simple request but matter of the heart through spiritual renewal and growth.
It is no doubt that many are holding ‘a faith in God that has been both purged and developed by the strains and perplexities of modern times, as well as by a small but by no means negligible direct experience of God Himself.’ In his inspiring book, Phillips explained that for many persons, ‘the greatest stumbling block to a mature faith lies in the fact that they haven’t found a God big enough for their needs – big enough to account for life, and to command their respect and worship … Demolishing notions of God as the resident policeman, or as an old man with old-fashioned ideas.’ Phillips in the context of our Gospel reading shows us why we ‘must seek God where he has most clearly revealed himself – in the man Jesus Christ.’ Lent and preacher in wilderness invites us to a fresh and an enlarged concept of God, from the preacher looking for vivid and compelling material to the general reader searching for faith in a confused world. Phillips ‘encourages Christians to redefine their understanding of a creator without labels or earthly constraints and instead search for a meaningful concept of God. Phillips explains that the trouble facing many of us today is that we have not found a God big enough for our modern needs. In a world where our experience of life has grown in myriad directions and our mental horizons have been expanded to the point of bewilderment by world events and scientific discoveries, our ideas of God have remained largely static.’ The challenge facing the church today is, why is it difficult and ‘impossible for an adult to worship the conception of God that exists in the mind of a child of Sunday school age …?’
As we prepare for the Palm Sunday and the Holy Week, Lent invites us shake ourselves out of all familiarity and see with new eyes through Jesus’ cross and power of his resurrection. To want to see Jesus beyond the Gentiles request, we need to look to the cross, experiencing him in many things: teacher, healer, companion, and Lord. The heart of our new sight is revealed at the cross. The cross makes true sight possible. Do you want to see Jesus during this season of Lent and for the rest of your life? If yes, let us pray for preachers that Jesus will be our main source of spiritual formation, preaching, and inspiration.