No Sauce

There are two types of spaghetti eaters in this world: those who toss their pasta in the sauce, ensuring a nice even coating all the way through, while still allowing the pasta to shine and form the foundation of the dish, and those who smother their pasta so you can’t even see the noodles, which are nothing more than a convenient vessel with which to move said delicious sauce into your mouth. There are also those weirdos who skip the sauce altogether and just eat butter noodles (you know who you are!), but they are basically akin to the kid who sits in the back of class eating glue all day, so we’re not going to bother with them at the moment. 

A few weeks ago, Kanye West joined Joe Rogan on his podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience” for what was a fascinating, if sometimes head-scratching conversation. While talking about his Calabasas-based church, Kanye praised his pastor for his use of expository preaching, “There are some preachers who get up there and they have the Bible in their hands, and then they close the Bible and they talk for two hours…But the expository preachers go line for line [through the passage]. I come from entertainment, I’ve got so much sauce, I don’t need no sauce on the Word. I need the Word to be solid food, so that I can understand exactly what God is saying to me.” In other words, get rid of all the bells and whistles, the fluffy commentary, and just get to the Word. In this week’s episode of Ringside, Rev. Paul Koch agrees, “Kanye is right, you want a preacher to preach the word of God. Here’s the text, this is what it meant then, this is what it means now, this is how it impacts your life. That’s just good preaching. [Expository preaching] is a reaction against crappy preaching that isn’t doing any of that.” 

The timing of Kanye and Joe’s conversation is perfect. They take a moment to discuss the benefits of expository preaching in the midst of a broader conversation about Kanye’s 2020 presidential campaign, while still in the throws of a global pandemic that continues to claim lives and wreak social and economic turmoil. It seems too easy, with these major upheavals swirling around us, to get distracted, to want to address them all from the pulpit. I can only imagine the stress among pastors who moved services to Facebook Live, and struggle to find ways to keep their people engaged and entertained online, competing with the latest puppy videos or football games. It seems impossible to walk through a crowd, even in church, without being sucked into some sort of political disagreement, where someone wants more open, honest explorations of our political climate addressed in the sermon, while someone else wants none at all. In all of this, what Kanye calls for is to cut through the noise and grab onto the Word. “He doesn’t want the sauce, he doesn’t want the fancy stuff. I think that resonates, and that’s right. When I go to a church, I’m not there to be entertained. I need the Word of God, and good preaching will do that. It is the Word being delivered,” says Paul. Or, as Rev. Ross Engel sums it up, “just hand over the goods.”

As the Ringside preachers point out, there are many ways to do that, and each presents its unique challenges. “If [expository preaching] is to just read a couple verses and pontificate on it, you’re not really applying the text to the people, that this is Jesus for them. Suddenly, what you’re doing is preaching a hidden God, preaching morality, preaching story, rather than preaching Jesus for you. And that’s problematic because the goal of preaching is to take the gospel and give it to you who needs it, to apply it to your life,” Ross explains. To stand in front of a congregation and read the Bible is not good preaching. “The preacher doesn’t just get up there and just start reading and talking about it. He has a plan, he has an agenda, and he has a rule of faith that, before he even started reading the Bible, he is going to communicate to you…that is the sauce,” according to Rev. Joel Hess. It is not just about reading the words from the page and providing some surface-level explanation of them. It is taking those words, connecting them to the rest of scripture, and declaring to the people that they are justified by grace through faith, apart from works. You need a little sauce. 

The big takeaway here? You should always toss your pasta in the sauce. Make sure everything gets fully coated, because the sauce is delicious and it is good and God-pleasing for us to enjoy our food. You may like the marinara sauce tonight just as much as you appreciated the pesto last night, but perhaps the alfredo tomorrow will really hit the spot in a way it hasn’t for a while. Whichever way you flavor it, the pasta is still what we ultimately come to the table to sink our teeth into and fill up on. Despite, or perhaps because of, all the turbulence surrounding us today, let us ensure that we are sinking our teeth into the Word, filling up on God’s promises and peace…with maybe just a little bit of sauce. 

This article is a brief examination of one of several topics discussed during this week’s episode of Ringside with the Preacher Men. Listen to Rev. Joel Hess, Rev. Ross Engel, Rev. Paul Koch, and Tyler the Intern as they duke it out over the doctrine of justification, whether political homelessness can be a good thing for Christians, expository preaching, Lutheran baggage, and more on the full Ringside with the Preacher Men episode, “Political Homelessness”

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