FAITH IN FOCUS: TELLING IT AS IT IS
Lazy preachers use religious words. It’s easier than getting down to the nitty-gritty but it doesn’t help people to connect their faith with their lives. So whenever you hear a sermon that is peppered with words like salvation, ecclesial, redemption, Christological, justification, metanoia, eschatology, sanctifying grace or beatific vision, then you know that the preacher is using shorthand.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of these words; they are theological ways of expressing our faith and the work of God in our lives. But they remain on a cerebral level. They engage the mind but more often than not don’t reach the heart. They are not geared to connecting faith with life in a way that most people readily understand.
When the Jewish religious teachers preached they appear to have fallen into the same trap. What they said was right, but it was stale. People found it hard to become enthusiastic when they heard them preach.
Then Jesus came along. People related to what he said because they could see that it had meaning for the way they were trying to live. It connected with their struggles, their fears and their hopes. When they described his teaching, people said that he taught ‘with authority’. By this they did not mean that he took an official stance or that he talked down to people as if they were ignorant. It meant that they could see that his teaching was going to have a beneficial effect on their lives. It made sense and they could grasp its significance.
Authority meant that his words had clout. The word authority comes from a Latin word that at its root means to increase or grow. To speak with authority meant that what Jesus was saying to them would make them grow, cause them to develop, to fulfil their potential. Unlike the scribes who simply told people all the rules that they had to obey, Jesus’ teaching was a liberating experience that spoke about the value and worth of the human person before God. It encouraged people, offered them hope, gave them confidence and made them want to be part of the message and to tell others about it. It was more than just words. And it still is today.