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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Our church needs more rocks

 

Dr. Brian K. Blount gets NEXT Church attendees on their feet with rock-solid preaching

May 16, 2020

The worship space used during NEXT Church’s national gathering in Cincinnati, Ohio. The gathering concluded Wednesday with powerful, prophetic preaching by Dr. Brian Blount, president of Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Mike Ferguson)

“This is our stone-cold moment to be like Jesus, our rock and our redeemer,” Dr. Brian K. Blount told the recent NEXT Church national gathering at the close of a sermon. The president and professor of New Testament at Union Presbyterian Seminary called on worshipers to “stand on God’s promise … and rock out our world.”

The scriptural theme for the gathering was Joshua 4:1-9, where Joshua instructs 12 men to each carry a stone out of the Jordan River to the place where they were camping that evening. That way, when their children in time ask them “What do these stones mean to you?” they’ll be able to reply, “these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.”

Blount was also thinking of another reference to stones: Luke 19:28-40, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. At the end of the story, some of the Pharisees in the crowd tell Jesus to order the disciples to stop the people from praising God “joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen.” Jesus answers the Pharisees with these words: “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

In this story, Jesus “knows there is a horse out there,” Blount said. “He also knows the person who owns it believes and will release the horse when the disciples tell him (Jesus) needs it.”

We may picture Jesus riding into Jerusalem and “he might as well be a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, riding down the corridors of wealth and power.”

After the parade, “after all the branches have been waved, the prayers prayed, the collection collected,” we “head to brunch on Palm Sunday, then and now,” Blount said — unless we live like, say, a farm laborer.

“We don’t see what they see, because we aren’t meant to see what they see. We are meant to be blinded by our privilege of living safe, secure, spiritually successful lives.”

“Jesus can’t operate in the open, and neither can his people,” Blount said. They’re to go to the village and find a colt that’s never been ridden. Someone will ask, why are you untying it? “Do what I say in exactly the way I say it and you will end up here with the right horse,” Blount said of Jesus’ instructions. “There are people out there as determined to stop what you are doing as you are determined to do it.” If the wrong people get wind of the scheme, “they’ll do everything in their power to stop it. Jesus wants to make sure they can’t stop it.”

“What would it be like,” Blount wondered out loud, “if the next version of church is so engaged in revolutionary, liberating behavior that Christians who populated that church needed to use passwords so the people in charge couldn’t challenge the empowering until it was too late? What if worship was so dangerous you had to use a code to conduct it? What if the Eucharist was so egregious that you needed a safe word to get into a safe house to eat it?”

“By the time leaders catch on to what is happening with Jesus, it was already happening; people were proclaiming Jesus as Messiah,” Blount said. “They can’t stop the parade. The only alternative is to demand the parade be stopped by Jesus’ order, that Jesus order his people to stop proclaiming him as Messiah. It is at this point that Jesus declares that even if the people shut up, the rocks will cry out.

 “A rock does what a rock does. It sits there or it stands there, defiantly declaring its rockness.”

Joshua “certainly thought so,” Blount said. “Stones remember and stones speak.” And as Jesus said centuries later, “You can try to hide the truth, and you can refuse to tell the truth, but the stones will shout it out — to chasten you, to challenge you to become the you that God created you to be. They serve to remind you that how you took the land created a debt you can only repay one day by living more justly with those who you consider to be ‘other’ in the land.”

Mike Ferguson, Reporter/Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus:  NEXT Conference

Let us join in prayer for: 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Octavia Craig, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)
Barry Creech, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray:

Lord, give us eyes to see the loaves and fishes that are among us, that each of us brings to your table. Give us hearts that strive for community justice and human mercy rather than success. Amen.