Monday, October 02, 2006

Sermon Introduction: “I believe, help my unbelief.”

For the next week, I shall be posting my sermon for this last sunday. Today, the introduction. Questions, comments, helpful critiques are welcome. Read the text first: Mark 9:14-29

Here goes:

--- Frederick Buechner wrote a book about preaching called: Telling the Truth: Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairytale. In it he writes about how our lives are real and complex and difficult and sometimes disturbing. And Buechner maintains that in our gospel telling, we need to know and feel and to speak to the weight of those real and complex lives.

Buechner imagines a church service thus:

“The preacher climbs the steps to the pulpit with his sermon in his hand. He hikes his black robe at the knee so he will not trip over it. His mouth is a little dry. He has cut himself shaving. He feels as if he has swallowed an anchor. If it weren’t for the honor of the thing, he would just as soon be somewhere else.

“In the front pews someone turns up a hearing aid, and a young lady slips her six year old a lifesaver and a magic marker. A college sophomore is there, home for vacation because he was dragged there, and he slumps forward with his chin in his hand. The vice-president of a bank who twice that week has seriously contemplated suicide places his hymnal in the rack. A pregnant girl feels the life stir inside her. A high-school teacher, who for twenty years has managed to keep his homosexuality a secret for the most part even from himself, creases his order of service down the center with his thumbnail.

“The preacher deals out his note cards like a riverboat gambler. The stakes have never been higher. Two minutes from now he may have lost his listeners completely. But at this minute in the silence he has them in the palm of his hand.

“Who knows what this time, out of the silence, he will tell them?”

Says Buechner: “Let him tell them the truth.”

Let him tell Gospel truth.

Today is such a passage:

In this passage, we are met in all our unique complexity and frailty. We are met by Jesus and his wonderful Gospel.

And we hear perhaps one of the most important exchanges in the Bible. An exchange that could shape the nature of your faith for years to come:
V.24: “I believe, help my unbelief.”
V 24.. Now there is a sentence that appears contradictory. It makes no sense on paper. But make total sense in the heart.

I have but three humble reflections from Mark 9:

1. Jesus enters our lives as they really are: confused and complex.
2. Jesus powerfully speaks to our terrors and pains.
3. Jesus tenderly addresses our faithful doubts.

More to come... One point per post, in fact...

Love, Justin.


Kate said...

Hi Justin,

I am the wife of one Duncan Rintoul. He, his sister Vicky and I will be in New York THIS FRIDAY the 6th of October until the following Thursday morning.

Dunc would love to catch up for a bagel, or whatever it is you New Yorkers get into. Any chance? We'll be contactable on mobile number +1 64 68 122 180 once we're there. To leave a message for Dunc post a comment on

Yes, he too likes to waste the time.

Hope to see you soon,


Anonymous said...

i reckon there are 2 verses in the bible that express people's every day experience of being a christian, and give them reassuance (in the sense that heaps of people quote them and hang on to them) - 'i believe, help me with my unbelief is the first. Man, if that line wasn't there ... the second one is the romans one about 'i do what i don;t want to do'. 2 little lines ... rhea

Justin said...

In think that you are right, Rhea.

As they say: "The Bible needs verses like this".


chelsea said...

> Says Buechner: “Let him tell them the truth.”

What an important thing to be reminded of - no matter what position we take in speaking about Jesus - formal like in this story or more informal - let us speak the truth! No need at all for anything more!

Thank you justin