53Then each of them went home, 81 while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. (John 7:53-8:11)
When you think of Jesus teaching, where do you place him? On the mountaintop looking down at vast crowds? Moving along the road at a quick pace with disciples and others trying to keep up? On the back of the ass entering Jerusalem? In the temple at the pulpit? How often do you think of Jesus sitting?
No. Jesus doesn’t separate himself out of the crowd to teach the crowd. He doesn’t set the stage for whatever he is going to say, teach, do. He doesn’t manipulate the situation for more or less drama. He teaches amongst and to and with. And he sits down.
It seems to me that some of Jesus’ most profound ‘teaching’ moments are found in these paused times where Jesus sits. Where I imagine him to be using what mother’s understand as his ‘inside voice.’ These pauses that relate to particular situations – dilemmas for the faithful regarding righteousness, questions of ethics, power and politics, religion, law – in which the words that come from Jesus speak for themselves. The message – not the messenger – is revealed and lands in the hearer hard and deeply. The message pierces the heart, truth pierces in order to be made known. The word is allowed to travel to each heart within ear-shot, like the ripples of a stone skimming along the water – outward from the source. Jesus, the source, the messenger, sits out of the way of the message.
Whether he is teaching just one or the crowds, as he does so in today’s gospel story from the Daily Office Lectionary.
The adulteress woman and the teaching that comes from the story – we are all sinners, lest you forget – is such a powerful one that it seems trite to zero in on Jesus’ position – whether he is standing, sitting, projecting or speaking in his inside voice – as an entry into what the Holy Spirit might be revealing to God’s people this day.
But pause I did and was able to access, thus, the humble, quiet teaching moment that I imagine looked a lot like this photo depicts – Jesus sitting, teaching, while the scribes and Pharisees look down upon him.
Such a different posture and subtlety than so many present day gospel ‘teachers.’ This pause brought to mind the messengers of our time. Those we find in our worshiping communities who proclaim and teach the good news of Jesus Christ with and in us.
And as my mind’s eye peruses the landscape of those who teach and preach in today’s worshiping communities, I am nearly blinded by all the lights, cameras, bells and whistles that I see surrounding these messengers. All of whom are not just standing but also parading on a stage with the words they are teaching illuminated behind them on larger than life screens. Looking down on us, surely blinded by stage lights to really even see those to whom they preach at, teach at. And speaking their inside voice into a sophisticated amplifier discretely attached to their hip looking shirt or dress for it to be heard in the far reaches of the stadium seats.
Perhaps. I’m on the edgy side these days as I consider ministry in God’s church and how God’s realm is being proclaimed – most especially in Sunday worship. And today’s gospel just touched a nerve I guess. God’s people can learn so much from Jesus in his quiet ways and moments.Transforming truths come from him while he sits. When he uses his inside voice.
But today it seems as if Jesus’ teaching moments are being turned into feel good identity badges that do nothing to transform the life of the hearer because they have been packaged for the consumer. Hmm.
I don’t find many inside voices in worship anymore. Rather many more loud, staged, overly dramatic orators speaking at and down to God’s people.
What has God’s church lost in translation? And where have all the quite moments gone?
Sigh. I think I’ll sit on this one.