Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Profound Simplicity

Is there such a thing as profound simplicity? At first it may seem as though the two words are opposite of one another. Something profound is usually perceived as being complex, reserved for the realm of scholars, philosophers, and theologians that speak in an esoteric language that confound the masses. Something simple on the other hand is left to be understood by the masses, not that they are incapable of grasping something more, but it is instead designed to reach and communicate something to a wide range of people.

Is it however possible for the two to come together?

There are many reasons why I love the cartoon "Peanuts", not least of which is because Charles "Sparky" Schulz had the uncanny ability to communicate profound truth through the experiences of children that represented the broad spectrum of human experience. The ages of the "Peanuts" gang were from about 3 (with Lucy and Linus' little brother Rerun), to 8 years old. We have all been there. We can all relate to that. Yet they each had an outlook on life that went beyond their ages, summed up in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" where Charlie Brown sees the commercialism of Christmas, from a lighting competition which Snoopy enters, to aluminum trees in various colors and sizes, and in typical Charlie Brown pines for what is real. It is Linus, the philosopher/theologian of the gang who recites the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus. What child would be depressed about the lights and the decorations? And what child would see through all that to get to the truth?

One of my favorite song lyrics comes from the group "Semisonic", and their hit "Closing Time." The singer, about halfway through the song sings "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." He closes the song out with those same lyrics. It's a profound truth communicated in a simple and memorable way.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 2nd Corinthians 2 that he did not come to them speaking hard to understand words, or using the language of the learned, the poets, or the philosophers though I don't doubt that he knew how to speak in such a manner. Rather he spoke of the simple truth of Christ and Him crucified.

Jesus Himself, the one by whom made everything that was and is made, did not speak in a manner the gnostics would have us believe, or that Bible code enthusiasts say He must have spoken to us in. He spoke in parables, relating everyday mundane things (a shepherd searching for a lost sheep, a man sowing seed into various types of soil, etc) into spiritual significance. While the scribes, pharisees, and sadducees were busy arguing among themselves and with Jesus over minutia, He communicated the truth of the gospel and the Kingdom of God to the point where even the outcasts of the outcasts were transformed.

No modern day preacher sums this up better than Billy Graham. He isn't a great preacher because his great learning is on display when he steps behind the pulpit to preach. From a technical standpoint there is a lot that he lacks, things that would probably make any public speaking teacher or homiletics professor shake their head. Yet, in his technical weakness he communicates the simple but profound truth of the gospel message. It isn't his ability whatsoever.

The gospel does not have to be complicated. People don't need to scrub the filthy areas of their life in order to enter a church and hear the truth. We like the barriers that being profound produce. It makes us feel important, set apart, special. All the while we tend to forget that it was never our own merit that God looked at before deciding to bless us with salvation. We didn't have it all together, and even the best of us still mess things up every once in awhile. 

My ability never qualified me to be a pastor. Just because I can stand in front of a crowd of people and talk without saying "uh" and "um" every third or fourth word means nothing. Just because I received a small piece of paper with very nice script written on it saying that I achieved graduation from a tough school did not mean I was any more qualified to preach than I was prior to receiving it.

What good would I do as a pastor if I pulled out a thesaurus to demonstrate a mastery over language, but the people who listened never heard me communicate the gospel?

Jesus, Paul, and "Peanuts" serves as a reminder that if I can't simply proclaim that profoundly simple truth, I have no business being a pastor in the first place. And what it should communicate to any of you who take the time to read this blog is that if you find yourself in the family of God, there is nothing that should prevent you from sharing that truth either. It doesn't have to be polished, just simple. And profound.  

No comments:

Post a Comment