He seemed like a relic of a bygone era, a street preacher standing on a park bench in Ottawa’s Major’s Hill Park. No-one was listening, not even me. Okay, I half-listened, but I wasn’t his target audience.
The tradition of oral persuasion, of Christians standing on street corners proclaiming their message is over. Has been for decades really. What was quite common in my childhood is a rarity today, and more of a freak show than anything else. It’s not the way people communicate in the 21st century. It wasn’t for the last half of the 20th century either, though street preachers seem not to have noticed.
I admire people who have the courage to go out in public and preach. It must take a huge amount of faith and the conviction that you are called to do this work. Somehow though, when I see street preachers I always wind up wishing that their message was a little more temperate, or at least something the average passerby could relate to.
This particular gentleman at least didn’t seem angry with his audience or delighted to be proclaiming doom. I have seen many street preachers telling their audience they were going to hell, and not sounding at all sad about that. But he was adamant: judgement is coming to Ottawa.
Theologically I agree with him. Practically I think he was wasting his breath. People were tuning him out. There were those in the park within earshot, but no-one came close to him, no-one was asking questions about his message. No-one cares about judgement.
Anyone who has read any of the Bible knows that God has many different attributes. Yes, he is a God of judgement, but even more he is a God of love.
We live in a world where no-one wants to consider bad news, and judgement is bad news. We would rather be lemmings running merrily along our track until we go over the cliff. (Lemmings don’t really do that, but the image is ingrained in our culture.) Since we don’t want to hear the message I don’t know that it makes sense to stand on a park bench preaching it.
What people do want to hear is how much God loves them. Maybe I should have gone over and mentioned that to the preacher. Judgement is coming, which is all the more reason people need to hear that above anything else, God loves them.