Dr. Ozzie Smith on "Shackles That Won't Shrink!"

Dr. Ozzie Smith reflects on this week's Day1 sermon, "Shackles That Won't Shrink" by the Rev. Gary Manning.

Rev. Manning cut both to the chase and to the bone of righteousness and the spot-on analysis of the aptly put ever-shrinking gospel. The need to be virtually correct, so as not to make anyone angry or offend the sensitively insensitive, can utterly deconstruct a sermon. A pastor once suggested that the congregational gaze these days seems to say, "Don't you dare preach to me, just make me feel good." It seems also that when the gospel is truly preached to consumer-driven understanding that people leave the sanctuary fattened by so much Word that they are no longer able to outrun the wolves of the world. As Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. once told me, "Ozzie, it's the Christ, not the crowd!"

The Romans passage gets to the motive behind the artful dodges of grace-dependent sin in a seductive culture. It is no secret that living the Christian faith is beyond being under fire--it can feel almost wounded and illegal. Walter Brueggemann, speaking at a recent FTE Conference, suggested that we are called to "peculiarity." He continued that this call to peculiarity is under the relentless pressure of reality such that each waking moment calls for a re-decision to remain peculiar! (I note that peculiar has been translated to "holy" in the NRSV.) It is no wonder that Rev. Manning's pastor friend confessed to that pressure by describing her message as innocuous--not bothering anyone. The scene observed by Rev. Manning of the poor in Milwaukee paints a picture of strategic hues also--a picture that has prints throughout this country--prints that are not digitally altered but historically honed. I believe that most institutions eventually through the habits of "human heart" ultimately morph into some kind of meanness that maintains a status-woe. This message is prophetically on my porch, patio, and parlor--Jesus is still real!!!! Sin, culture of politics, and politics of culture seems always to pull us out of the gospel orbit such that our homilies are harmless and our sermons become sirens of sweet-sounding nothings. Thanks Rev. Manning for rocking the lectern today with WORD! Thanks Day1 for the lift and the lesson!

Ozzie Smith

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