“But the answer must be Jesus!”

what is grey, climbs in trees....

Sunday School Teacher:  what is grey, climbs in trees, eats nuts and has a big tail?

Sunday School Kid: Well it sounds like a squirrel, but the answer has to be Jesus.

  I have been wondering about the frequent claim that all sermons should be tied to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  It is said that we need to tie whatever text we read to the main story line, which is the history of redemption, or the story of salvation.  We fall into the danger of becoming moralists, bible information dispensers, self-help gurus, it is said, if we don’t make the link.

Here is the issue, are we thereby imposing on a text the need to say, “But the answer is Jesus.”  One can present the book of Ruth as the story of God’s providential care in the lives of ordinary people, of the importance of keeping the laws regarding the poor and needy and of the value of faithful living.  Or one can focus on the Jesus connection: Boaz and Ruth are in the line of David, which is the line of the Messiah and of Christ.  It is even possible to turn the book into an extended parable of the Gospel.  I would cover all those points, but make the “Jesus connection” at the end, where the book does.

I prefer to think that the connection should be made when it is evident in the text itself.  We are in a church which is all about the history of redemption, but sometimes the text is practical advice (A gentle answer turns away wrath – Prov 15:1) or a reminder of God’s mercy to the weak and the alien (the servant Girl and Naaman in II Kings 5).

A friend was surprised in a message from Proverbs 1-9 that I did not tie the text to Christ – but the passage was about the value of wisdom.  Now in the series the theme of Wisdom was tied to Christ – “in who all wisdom dwells”, but that sermon allowed the passage to speak to one aspect of the life of wisdom.

In other words, sometimes you can talk about a squirrel.

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