in either 2000 or 2001 dr. eugene lowry, the author of the homiletical plot, an essential and blessedly short work on narrative preaching, gave the bebb preaching lectures at soybean bible college in mount pulaski, illinois. although i was unable to attend the lectures because i was in the throes of dating a girl i would later dump at an airport, my good friend mark made the trip out to mount pulaski and returned with tapes of dr. lowry's lectures.
i think i lost those tapes two moves ago and i don't really remember much of what lowry had to say. however, i do remember one snippet of a lecture in which he expressed his frustration at teaching young preachers elementary exegesis.* in his frustrated little aside, lowry said something like this:
"when i teach young preachers how to properly exegete a text they are constantly asking me how i determine the 'solution' of each story. that, i tell them, is your problem. when you are interpreting the bible you don't go looking for solutions, you go looking for trouble."
when i first heard this suggestion from dr. lowry i was a bit troubled. after all, i had long thought that the reason i was being sent out as a sheep among wolves was because i had the solution to sin and all the corruption therein right there in that black, calfskin leather, gold edged new american standard bible. if i couldn't be prepared to always give a reason for the faith that i had why, i wondered, should i minister at all?
but now i'm a little older and many of the certainties that were once set like steel in my eyes have long since melted into questions. now i look back all those millenia and i see abram as he wondered whether he should leave the only land he knew in order to follow a voice no one else had heard and smirk when i think of that fugitive jacob offering the Lord fidelity as long as the holy one ponied up for the wine, women and song jacob was lusting and looking for the in far country. i also think of Jesus, who ignored the politicians who appeared to hold destiny in their hands and denounced as snakes the religious leaders who ultimately sealed his fate. it is in those moments, when i realize that these men and so many others encountered God in the midst of trouble, i begin to catch on to the edge of dr. lowry's wisdom.
some of you can, and perhaps have, found God among the certainties of theological systems and the robust strength of your christian traditions. rest assured that i'm glad you stand on such a firm foundation and are sure of things that you cannot see.
as for the rest of you, i hope you can find some measure of hope in dr. lowry's words. if you can't find God among the certainties that are oft proclaimed and the songs that have so long been sung go looking for him in the midst of trouble. throughout your life you'll find plenty of the latter and i suspect that you'll find He is there.
* which is a five dollar word for interpretation much like lexicon is a five dollar word for dictionary. in case you are wondering the answer is yes, most biblical scholars and theologians really do have a stick up their ass.