HERE. It is a report of the top ten most frequently searched Bible verses, at least according to Google. It is an interesting mix, fairly representative of Scripture, except for one thing. You have to head way down the list before you encounter any verse than mentions the dreaded three letter word -- SIN! Even then, it mentions sin in the context of how to get rid of it (at #19) and how everyone has it (#20 so how bad can it be).
Interesting. I wonder if it were possible to Google all the sermons preach in America or the world, how far down the list would you have to go before encountering the word sin. Even then, would we meet much of sin in terms of its destructive power to rob and steal the nobility of our life, to mark us for mortal death and condemn us to eternal death, or to build walls between us and each other and between us and God? Or would we meet sin more in the context of our failure to reach our full potential, or our failure to be all that we can be (oh, duh, that's the Army), or our failure to get out of our life all that we should? Hmmm... not so much interesting any more as sad... very sad.
The article mentions a book I shall have to read The Gagging of God. Ultimately this is not so much an organized gagging of the Lord as it is a casual silencing of God by simply skipping over the things we do not want to hear. I can understand this. There are plenty of Sundays after I have read words of Jesus like "do not think I have come to bring peace on earth" or "I have come to set brother against brother..." or the like and have wondered why do we want to hear this? It is as if I feel I should turn into a question the end of the reading "This is the Gospel of the Lord?"
What we do not want to hear are often the very things we need to hear the most. I have friends who are diabetic (not fully compliant diabetics) who hear exactly what they do not want to hear from their physicians -- but if they do not hear and heed his words, it does not bode well for them. I absolutely hate going to the dentist and the little game I play with the hygienist about "how often have you flossed?" It is most unpleasant for me to have to fuzzy out the truth and listen to her tell me how important it is to floss. But I do not have great teeth and if I am going to keep them, I had better hear and heed her words. I could not stand it when the guy rotating my tires told me that they were bald and I needed new ones -- at $135 a pop, plus alignment. But I am glad he told me. I needed to hear and heed his words if I were to head me or my family down the road safely.
Both in terms of our preaching to the folks in the pew and to those not yet of the kingdom of God, we need to say what they do not want to hear. It is not because we delight in telling them what is bad but only by stark confrontation with what sin is and what its death means can they hear the Gospel. I once wondered if the reason people did not want to hear certain things is that they figured the people telling them got some sort of sick delight over saying bad news (the tire guy or dental hygienist). But I no longer think that way. I think we want to be liked and loved and so we try to avoid saying out loud the things that might interfere with this like or love from others. So the physician often sugar coats the bad news or couches it in medical speak -- not because he wants to but because he is afraid of the consequences of giving us the unvarnished truth. And preachers are often the same way.
The Law is not the final word of God and sin is not where the sermon should end, but the Law must be spoken and sin must be preached or we will have kidnapped God, put Him in a corner, gagged Him, and allowed Him only to speak what we want Him to say. In the end, such a God is mere creature and we have broken the first commandment -- broken it in such a way that the Gospel will remain hidden to us and grace inaccessible -- no matter how wonderful our talk about reaching high, fulfilling our goals, living up to our potential, and getting what we want from life...