Keep it Real
My homiletics professor encouraged us to “Keep it real!” When he first told me that a story came to my mind. A zealous elder was “teaching the Sanctuary Message” in Sabbath School. The church was discussing the Sanctuary becuause it was the study of the day in the Sabbath school lesson.
The elder wanted to make it simple so he created a drawing to supplement the lesson. The elder began talking about the geography of the wilderness tabernacle and from the beginning lost the people. He described the importance of the color of the curtains. He described the different pieces of furniture. He then asked the question, “Was the ark of the covenant God the Father’s throne or God the Son’s throne?” One sister in the audience had had enough. She yelled out “What does this have to do with my salvation?” The elder stumbled and then ignored the answer going right back to his discussion of the minutia of the geography of the Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary So-What!
I then fully realized why the Sanctuary is sat aside by many. It is the same reason why no one preaches on the liniage of Jesus Christ. (I have heard a very good sermon on this by Henry Wright, but it is the only one I have every heard that did not degenerate into a lecture.) Our teaching of the Sanctuary is limited by the fact that we either ignore it or we don’t answer the question of that Sister, What difference does this make? Am I better off for knowing this? Why even bring it up? No wonder it is only trotted out during Revlation Seminars when we are trying to prove that Adventism is true by resorting to a mathmatical calculation.
In the end like many of our doctrines, we have not passed the so-what test. Without passing the “so-what test”, a teaching is unprofitable and useless. When we preach Advnetism we must stop making it useless either by our disuse or by our faulty use of it.
I was talking to a classmate the other day about the Untied States in the eschatology of Seventh-day Adventism. I told him that in the Adventist understanding of the end time the United States would force people to disobey God and God’s law. I assured him that in our thought the United States would become the New Babylon. I then began to feel the adventist evangelist in me well up as I began to quote Revelation 13 and compare it to the actions of the United States. I explained the lamb-horned beast and the image that that beast sets up. Then my classmate told me that all of that was interesting. He then asked the question, “How does this view of the end times inform your understanding of the war in Iraq?”I know that many of us would say nothing.
Is The United States a Beast Today?
Many of us are still hoping to be called evangelical and thus gain acceptablity with the rest of the Christian world. Some are bending over backwards to hide ourselves from the implications of stating that the United States is a Beast. Many of us wish to fade into the background of evagelicalism for we reason that America is better than everyone else. Some of us turn our head when this government removes our liberties becuase of a terrorist threat that it is making worse by starting wars with faulty intelligence. Some of us would turn our head when the military of our country tortuers war prisoners. We argue that they would do the same thing to us.
What would our early pioneers say when they saw slavery as proof that the contemporary United States was speaking like a dragon. I wonder what Ellen White would say when she said that we should not obey the unjust fugitive slave act. What would our pioneers say when this country left throusands of its own citizens in New Orleans.
I ask the same question of us as I my classmate asked me, “What is the relationship of our understanding of the end time and the Iraq war? How we answer this might hint at whether our Americanism is stronger than our prophetic interpretation.
Often we hear preacher’s place what is termed the Gospel above Adventist distictive beliefs. They say that the Gospel is more important than any of the other doctrines and teachings of Adventism or any group. When we take that as an assumption, and I simply do it for the sake of argument, we are given the choice between Adventism and the Gospel. Not surprisingly many of us chose the Gospel. However such a choice makes our Adventism at best irrelevant and at worst an impediment to the Gospel. Thus the Sabbath, Sanctuary, State of the Dead, and all of these doctrines must step aside while the Gospel stands front and center.
If we take this assumption and our Adventist beleifs are a sidelight that is at best only tangentially related to the Gospel then we must ask the question “Why preach Adventist distinctives at all?” Such a mindset causes the doctrines to be trotted out every so often while the more important “Gospel” is preached. Because many follow such a road there is a backlash among those with more conservative proclivities. Some of these would say that the Gospel is Adventism. At the very least the gospel of the last days is such that we must hold on to Adventism and its deistinctive beleifs. A more softened version of this would say that Adventism is just as importnat as the Gospel and thus should be preached just as often. According to all of these views there is a beleif that Advnetist beliefs should take a stronger role and perhaps stand near the Gospel in presentation.
I wish to propose another road. Instead of saying that Adventism is less important than the Gospel or that Adventism and the Gospel must be balanced, or that the Gospel is Adventism, I would suggest another course. I would suggest that we see and understand the Gsopel through our Adventism. Our Adventism provides stories, pictures, and themes to help us illuminate the Gospel in ways that others would not be able to see. Just as the Methodists with their strong view of holiness brought a light on the Gospel of God to the reformation understanding, we have a role to help illuminate the Gospel.
There are elements that we see that others cannot see due to our doctrines. We are those who see the Gospel through the Sabbath. The one who calls us to rest. The importance of Creation and recreation. We see the Gospel through the Sanctuary. The importance of God with us. The importance of cleansing and ultimate cleansing. We see the gospel through the State of the Dead. There is only life through Christ.
Instead of only preaching Adventism sometimes and the Gospel other times I would suggest that an Adventist preacher must preach both at the same time. If it ain’t the Gospel it shouldn’t be preached, if it ain’t Adventism then why has God chosen you to preach it?