Tony Campolo preached an infamous sermon you might not want your kids to hear.
Luckily for you, the ancient dream has finally come true—in this brave new world, God's
people finally have the power to mute the preacher.
Get ready, because here's what Campolo said:
"I have three things I'd like to say today.
First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition.
Second, most of you don't give a shit.
What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that
30,000 kids died last night.”
What is most important?
What are we afraid of; what are we most offended and threatened by?
What matters more: the lives of others or my own personal sensibilities, expectations,
worldview, and comfort zone?
Avoiding these questions is one of countless seductions of white privilege, which looks to be
fading away, finally, at long last, thanks be to God.
These essential questions have been front and center on capital steps and city streets and
social media across our country for weeks now, with no escape havens of entertainment
or sports to shield us from their intrusion, no sand remaining in which to bury our heads.
Maybe now we're finally ready to hear Matthew chapter ten.
Jesus doesn't mince words.
He exposes our favorite things—security, safety, money, stuff, privacy, reputation,
conflict avoidance, and yes, even family—as idols.
He is preparing his apostles to go out into the world to cast out demons and preach the ultimate
priority of God with no gold, no silver...no bag, no guarantees...see, I am sending you out
like sheep into the midst of wolves.
He tells them to expect trouble, especially from the authorities; that's what the cross is, after all.
It is the inevitable, predictable result of telling the truth, which Gloria Steinem famously
noted will set you free, but first it will piss you off.
If you don't believe her, go spend ten minutes on social media.
You will quickly find a morass of defensiveness, a sprawling wasteland of liberals and
conservatives alike launching partial truths like grenades while avoiding, discrediting,
attacking, denying and rejecting any and all truth from the other side because they can't
bear the possibility that any exists and the terrifying implications that come from that.
There are many sharp points that will puncture your own preferences if you have the courage to let them.
Have no fear of them, Jesus says.
Have no fear of the truth, because the truth knows the number of hairs on your head and
the death count of sparrows and the truth is Someone who loves you.
And the truth will set you free, but don't expect to enjoy the journey getting there.
Jesus is introducing his new apostles, and those of us who are the latest heirs to their daunting
assignment, to the old truth of Jeremiah.
When he was only a boy, God saddled Jeremiah with a call too heavy for adult shoulders:
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to
destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.
In that order.
There is no Easter until after Good Friday.
There is no weight loss without diet and no surgery without a knife.
There will be no adequate justice in this country until a lot of attitudes, investments,
commitments, and institutions get plucked up and pulled down.
There is no growth in our minds or hearts until a lot of assumptions, certainties, comforts, and
preferences get destroyed and overthrown.
There is no resurrection in our soul until our ego gets crucified, no freedom without loss, no joy
without pain; there is no Christ without the cross.
It's the truth I don't like to preach that no one likes to hear.
Just ask Jeremiah.
He spoke the pointed, perilous words God gave him, poor sap, which left him less popular than
Colin Kaepernick on Flag Day.
By chapter twenty, he's eighteen chapters past done, and Israel is completely done with him and
hatching multiple plots to mute the preacher permanently.
It has gotten raw and real and ugly.
Even the translators can't handle Jeremiah's language.
Lord, you seduced me and raped me, you had your way with me!
I'm a punchline, a public disgrace, Monica Lewinsky but without the dignity and respect.
Whenever I open my mouth, your truth comes out, so everyone wants me dead.
Whenever I shut my mouth, the heartburn suffocates me until I have to vomit out your
You won't even let me die in peace; you stand by me like secret service, keeping me alive and
miserable, and I'm so stupid or desperate or broken that I stick with you too.
My apologies to Jeremiah if I cleaned that up too much; the original was much nastier.
There just aren't words strong enough for the bile in his mouth and fire in his bones, nor
for the invitation Jesus issues when he says take up your cross and follow me.
The truth stings.
But do not be afraid of them, because God is with you, like a dread warrior.
Like it or now, God will get you through to verse thirteen: sing to the LORD, praise the
LORD, for he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of the evildoers.
You will build, and you will plant.
On the third day the Son of Man will rise again.
The destination, invisible and unfathomable from here, is more than worth the awful journey.
I think Leslie Dwight has her finger on this.
She asks, What if 2020 isn’t cancelled? What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for? A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw — that it finally forces us to grow. A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us from our ignorant slumber. A year we finally accept the need for change. Declare change.
Work for change.
Become the change.
A year we finally band together, instead of pushing each other further apart. 2020 isn’t cancelled, but rather the most important year of them all.”
I looked ahead.
2020 ends with the seventh day of Christmas.
The fire in Jeremiah's bones will become a baby in Mary's arms.
The sword on the preacher's lips will become a smile in your laughing heart.
The dangerous truth of God will become a tiny, fragile, resilient, beautiful hope, born into a
world that doesn't give a shit but then raised from murder by the God who does, the
real, unflappably determined God who takes it in the neck and still sticks with this
violent, resistant, recalcitrant, stubborn, stiff-necked, hopeless world, around us and
inside us, enough to tell it the truth it doesn't want to hear and drag it into hope and
bludgeon it into beauty and kill it into life like a dread warrior who does not and will not
leave our side.
Sing to the Lord.
Praise the Lord.