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THE MARK OF THE PREACHER (The Gospel According To Carla Boone)

Stone them

“Those who preach don’t care to see the scars they leave behind”

Wow! I was listening to Ben Glover’s Shelter Sessions, his on-line mini gigs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He sang a song called The Ballad of Carla Boone and I pricked up my ears at the line.

As a preacher the surmising started rippling out. 

Though Ben pointed out to me that “those who preach” was describing Carla’s community in general I couldn’t help feeling extra pressure for those of us who preach as a vocation.

Carla is a woman on the run from something and in a small community, like the ones Ben and I know of in the Bible Belt of County Antrim, everybody want to know your business and many are quick with their judgements. There were suspicions about Carla’s nighttime liaisons. Enough to cast a few stones, literally!

As I pondered the scars that preacher’s make, I was drawn to that moment in the Gospels when the woman caught in adultery is dragged before Jesus. Adultery takes two but there was no sign of the man being judged.

All of Carla Boone’s judgements are right here in this Gospel moment. The woman has just been caught. She might even have been naked. Some say that that is why Jesus wrote in the sand! The religious are preaching and want to leave their mark all over her body by stoning her to death.

Jesus, who God has given the right to judge the living and the dead leaves a very different mark. He leaves the self righteous uncomfortable in their own sinfulness. As Ben Glover’s song says, “Who’s not on the run?” 

As the “preachers” all leave the mark that Jesus leaves on the women seems so loving, wholesome and nothing short of beautiful. Jesus sets her free, oh free to a new kind of life, But free to be her self again… and free from the world’s judgements.

Of course this is only one story of many. If we look at Zaccheus, The Samaritan woman, Blind Bartenaus, the Roman centurion or even the thief on the cross everyone who might receive the world’s damnation get a mark of love and grace.

As Paul wrote I Colossians 2 - “God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross” I cannot help sense a mark of liberation, spiritually and psychologically here!

The only ones who get any sense of a mark of judgement from Jesus are the self-righteous religious leaders who were burdening their people with painful marks of the soul.

I was brought up preaching with an erroneous idea that the good news was not the good news without the bad news and that have we had an hour we should concentrate on the bad news for 55 minutes and only get to the good news at the end.

It makes certain sense if the Good News of Jesus is just a dramatic  story or a cold rational theological thought.

The Gospel isn’t though. John’s account of Jesus life drops a profound truth in his prologue when he says “the word became flesh”. The truth of Jesus is not rational creed it is living breathing knowledge, emotion and soul feelings.

Imagine the mark you would leave on a child’s psyche if every morning you told them what a pathetic little worms they were before a  last minute reprieve of “but you are loved”! You’d rightfully be up for child abuse.

I always find that it is much easier rom a firm foundation of love to shared the errors,sins and weaknesses of my children, my friends or myself. Good news is a more fertile soil to share any bad news there might be.

Yet, soul abuse has been rampant for centuries. The incredible amazing news of God self sacrificial grace has not been so much the mark on people’s souls as a spiritually brutal and paralysing judgmentalism. 

If the Jesus God has anything to offer that is different from all the other gods on the block, then it is the lavish idea of grace, a God whose mark is one of a healing and redemptive love that restores and brings life in all its fulness.

God may I be careful of the mark that I leave. May it always be a Godly one. And God forgive me when I left other marks. May the mark I now leave behind on lives like Carla Boone’s be a Christ like loving one.


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