I have not updated this blog for several weeks. Instead, I have been reconnecting with my family after nine weeks of separation. But I have also been participating in a class at Calvin Theological Seminary called “Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching.” It is led by Calvin Seminary President Dr. Cornelius (Neal) Plantinga and Truett Theological Seminary Professor Hulitt Gloer. (Truett is connected with Baylor University, a Baptist institution in Waco, Texas). This course is producing profound enjoyment, and hopefully, stirring up my brain to creatively and effectively tell the story of God’s love from the pulpit.
In the first week we read an American classic, The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. This is a story that many young American students are assigned to read in highs school or college, long before they are able to appreciate it. One enduring image is that of Ma Joad, who is the bulwark of strength, a citadel of endurance during times of extreme scarcity and trouble; she holds the family, including the menfolk, together when they are at the breaking point. It is a story of hope, and how persons can only thrive when they work together. The (ex-) preacher in the story, Jim Casey, is also very interesting, because he only truly discovers his calling after he gives up preaching in the conventional sense (in this case, whipping up the faithful into a frenzy of emotion and glossalalia). He begins to find the holy everywhere, and in everyday things. And ultimately he gives his life defending the rights of the poor Okie immigrant farmers. It’s no coincidence that he shares his initials with Jesus Christ.