Pleasantly Expectant or Dangerously Attentive

WOW! Did that phrase ever capture my attention when I read it in The Soul of a Leader. It comes from the great British biographer of Lincoln - Lord Charnwood. Charnwood was comparing the style of speaking used in the British Parliment with the way Lincoln spoke.

The British speakers strove to keep their listeners:

"pleasantly expectant rather than dangerously attentive . . .
Lincoln's style was the exact reverse."

Abraham Lincoln had a different task. To persuade, convince, mobilize, direct, inspire and renew the moral, political and spiritual life of a divided nation.

My thoughts went immediately to the preaching task. Preaching the "good news of the Kingdom of God" is not a nice, pleasant, comfortable, casual work.

It is perilous work, fraught with difficulty and danger. Preaching the good news of an alternate REIGN OF GOD that stands in direct and stark contrast and opposition to the kingdoms of this world - dangerous, risky, radical, SUBVERSIVE!

Why would we ever want to have listeners that are pleasantly expectant... politely amused... and even personally fulfilled. 

On the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter challenged the crowds of listeners who had weeks earlier supported the crucifixtion of  Christ. He called them to repentance and faith. Now believe in the one they crucified.

Did you see the movie Amazing Grace which was about William Wilberforce and his work to end the slave trade? Do you remember when he went preaching to the upper class London dwellers about the horrors of the slave trade. He challenged them. He demanded they see the slave trade with a reordered imagination. He called them to participate in the work of God to put an end to this EVIL.

Have you listened (recently or ever) to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, I Have a  Dream speech. This was preaching at its finest. Casting a kingdom vision of an alternative reality. Arousing longing and desire for the Kingdom of God that is already here, but not yet fully here. Daring the listeners to dream that better dream. (By the way, to participate in the dream of Lincoln and Wilberforce . . . of God Himself.)

Preaching is proclamation about:

the deep things of God,
the promise of a Total Reversal (see Mary's prayer as well as Luke's version of the Beatitudes),
the prophetic critique of all that is wrong (and that is SO MUCH THAT IS SO WRONG),
the summons to join in, fully participate with the redeeming work of God,
and the perils of FAILURE to do so!

Images are Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address, The Apostle Peter, William Wilberforce (actor, not the original) and Martin Luther King, Jr.

When we preach, people should be on the edge of their seats, dangerously attentive to the life altering words of Scripture. These ANCIENT words of Scripture (of God) have been generously revealed/given to us. Through the one who preaches, they are then interpreted and contextualized, applied and driven home in their fierce truth and holy beauty for TODAY.

As we come to the Christmas Season, remember, the birth narratives were not polite, sanitized, cozy nativity scenes as we see them...  NO! They were Stories of the Great Reversal that was beginning in dramatically new ways as God was With Us in unimaginable ways.

May you have ears to hear the good news of the coming kingdom and the grace to have a full repentance and then full participation in that Kingdom. May you be dangerously attentive to the Voice of Jesus in the coming days.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International

LCI - Helping you be Dangerously Attentive to the Mighty Words of God