Preaching beyond the church walls

“He sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.” What a wonderful idea! In an age without loudspeakers or sound systems it would have been difficult for people to hear Jesus if he had stayed on shore. So Jesus used Simon’s boat to help him address the crowds.

The fishermen had already “disembarked and were washing their nets,” but Jesus didn’t call them away from the work they were doing. Instead, he asked them to get back into their boat and go back out onto the water. In other words, Jesus stepped into their workplace and taught from there.

Bill works in a real estate office. On any given day he may find himself working with a young couple excited about purchasing their first home; a family ready to move up to a larger, more spacious residence; a successful businessperson looking for a vacation home on the lake; or, perhaps, a retired suburban dweller ready to downsize to a condo in the city. But no matter who it is, somehow Bill always manages to help his customers to find exactly the right property. His secret? Bill listens.

Bill goes to church every Sunday. He attends an occasional Bible study and even helps out as a catechist in his parish. But it’s when he invites Jesus into his office that the real preaching takes place. When Bill listens to the hopes and dreams of his clients he, like Jesus, focuses on the people in front of him and not on how much money they have in their pockets. Bill advises his clients based on what they want and need rather than on what he wants to sell them. Like Simon, Bill allows Jesus to use his workplace to preach the good news of justice and respect.

Simon invited Jesus into his boat. Bill invites Jesus into his office. Do we invite Jesus into our workplace? Are we willing to leave our old way of thinking behind and to work differently as followers of Jesus? Or do we prefer to let Jesus preach in church while we remain on shore washing our nets?

Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.