Bringing the Text to Life

When a Church Should Go to Hell Luke 6:17-26

Most of us spend considerable time and energy trying to make our lives as safe and secure as possible. We want to be able to sit back and count our blessings - such as our jobs, our homes, our net worth. Jesus turns our notion of a blessed existence upside down, finding strength in vulnerability and warning us about the dangers of contented complacency. A blessed existence involves being sent to hell.

The "Ritual of Friendship," or "Passing the Peace" or whatever else that period of enforced sociability might be called, is a practice of problematic significance. A large percentage of congregants cringe and steel themselves while they plaster on a phony smile and breathe their most sincere prayer of the service - that this ritual will get over with quickly! In fact it is not unreasonable for you to assume that a significant number of those who attend your smallest, earliest services do so precisely in order to avoid this whole procedure.

What would be your congregation's reaction if this Sunday you told them to stand, turn to their neighbor, grasp hands firmly, look each other in the eye, and say "In the name of Jesus Christ, go to hell!"

Wilfred Bailey and William McElvaney have offered this rude sounding remedy for another Sunday of mumbled, meaningless "Peace be with you's" in their book, Christ's Suburban Body (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970).But Bailey and McElvaney are not...

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