Practical gospel. My Double-Best Bo Sanchez Sunday yet

Revised 30 August at 2245 hours Manila
MANILA (29 August 2010) – Smile. “Welcome Sir, welcome Ma’am.” My son Jomar, his wife Clarisse, their child and baby Sean and Lucia, along with Malen, Nene, and I are attending the last session of the preaching series, T3: Secret of Big Returns of The Feast at the Philippine International Convention Center along Manila Bay; this is a Roman Catholic Sunday prayer meeting of the Light of Jesus Family congregation. Fr Romy Castro is celebrating the mass; we come in just before the Mass begins. My notes begin with the 1st Reading, which comes from Sirach 3: 17-18, 20, 28-29. Here are the 17-18 verses (NRSV):

My child, perform your tasks with humility, then you will be loved by those whom God accepts. The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself, so you will find favor in the sight of the Lord.

The 2nd reading is from the book of the Hebrews but I don’t catch chapter and verse, I don’t know why. The Gospel (Luke 14: 1, 7-14) is about the Pharisees and their considered places of honor at the banquet table. When Jesus noted how they seated themselves, he told them this parable (in my own words): What if you seated yourself at the seat of honor at the table, and then are told that you did not belong there? What if you seated yourself at an ordinary seat at the table and then are told that you belonged to the head of the table? After which, Jesus told them, “He who exalts himself will be humbled; he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

So I shall call that the Parable of Humility.

Fr Romy talks about 2 kinds of parable: Window and Mirror. The window parables are stories that give us mortals a glimpse of the kingdom of God. The mirror parables are stories that mirror our shortcomings. Humility is accepting who we are, including our shortcomings.

Do you know, he says, where the word humility comes from? From the Latin humus, the soil, the black soil. Only if you accept that you are as lowly as the soil can you be productive, creative. I say: Humility begets creativity.

Fr Romy says that humility, like love, cannot be defined; it can only be described, and that is why Jesus gave the lesson by way of a humble parable, that of the humility parable. In one sentence, Fr Romy’s humility sermon is this, in his own words: “It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.”

Do we see nice people around? Here comes preacher Bo Sanchez, introduced by 2 jokers. This was a parody of The Ostentatious Rich, who loves to display what he has, and The Poor Poor, who loves to display what he has not. Jokes aside, let’s listen to him.

In his preaching, he talks about some ostentatious people. “Ostentatious wealth is a sign of God’s favor.” If you knew that, then you must believe in the Prosperity Gospel, according to Bo. He doesn’t believe in it.

Me, I always knew that ostentatious wealth was a sign of God’s disfavor - of poor me. When I was a teenager in my hometown Asingan in Pangasinan, I saw how the rich treated the poor, and I didn’t want to be poor.

I’ll describe to you what is the countryside way of ostentatious display: Our rich next-lot neighbors and relatives would not even give us any single fruit from their backyard trees, preferring to let the fruits fall to the ground where they may and allow the fruits to lie there, helpless, and allow us poor children to gaze longingly at the fruits, hopeless. Fence and barbed wire divided the rich and the poor. So, I also didn’t want to be rich, thinking that if I became rich I would treat the poor the same way. I was afraid of becoming rich!

So, I wanted to stay poor. I told myself when I grow up, I will never ever strive to become rich; I will never marry rich. I will stay poor. When I was in 2nd or 3rd year college, more than 45 years ago, there was this beautiful girl who had a crush on me, and I on her, and then love died when I asked if her family was rich. Beautiful and rich girls became anathema to me; poverty became my mantra.

“Poverty is a sign of God’s favor.” Is Bo Sanchez talking to me? Actually, he is saying that this is the Poverty Gospel, and he who believes in it is poor indeed!

When he tells the Bo Sanchez tall story of The Greatest Car in the World, he is walking tall. In fact, he is The Greatest Preacher in the World.

It is difficult to be humble if your car is The Greatest Car in the World. Bo’s car is old, small,, simple – not a Maserati, not a BMW, not a Lamborghini, not a Porsche, not a Range Rover. When he is on the road, the carnappers hate him. When he is stopped by a red light, the car next to him, a Mercedes Benz, ignores him. He’s not bothered at all. Humility has its rewards.

Not the Prosperity Gospel, not the Poverty Gospel; instead, Bo believes in the Practical Gospel, as he calls it. He believes that God wants you to become rich so that you can be more generous. “Generosity is a sign of God’s favor,” he says. And if you are rich, you can be generous - but only if in the first place you live a simple life. “The simple life is the best way to live!” It allows you to give more. So, Bo Sanchez commands you:

So, earn as much as you can.
And give as much as you can.
And live a simple life.

As much as I took notes (and am able to read my atrocious handwriting), that’s the best lesson that I have ever heard or read Bo Sanchez preach.

But there is yet another best today, and it is not what Bo Sanchez teaches but how he teaches it. Once a teacher, always a teacher, so I’m always watching out not only for preachers but for their preaching, the way they get their message across.

Preaching is teaching on your feet, mostly with a Bible open, mostly without a chalk and a blackboard. It’s also thinking on your feet. I have seen preachers using the PC, but I have yet to see a powerful PowerPoint presentation - without a preacher!

As far as I can tell, the power comes not from the preacher but from the preaching. In other words, any preacher can become a powerful preacher if he knows a technique or two for powerful teaching.

And who do you think is the best teacher of them all? I passed the very first Teacher’s Exam in 1965 with a grade of 80.6%, the highest in San Pablo City, but don’t look at me - look at The Master. If you don’t know The Master, then you are one of those who ask, seriously, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

“Master, why do you teach them in parables?” “Because that’s what they understand.”

Learn from The Master! Bo Sanchez is brilliant today, smashing, fiery, mesmerizing - in those precious minutes when he is using the metaphors of a rich man and a poor man, of the traffic signs; when he is using anecdotes and illustrations and stories and parodies - those are all in the modern sense parables.

In other words, at his best today, Bo Sanchez is preaching simply. If you are rich, be generous, and you can be generous only if you live a simple life, if you are humble. Borrowing from him, if you are a preacher and rich in practical lessons in life, be generous, and you can be generous only if you preach simply. Even a preacher can learn how to preach from the Parable of Humility. “Simplicity is a posture of the heart,” Bo Sanchez says. I say, define it and you’re coming in from a position of authority; tell a parable and you’re coming in from a position of strength, that of non-threatening, friendly familiarity.

My child, perform your tasks with humility, then you will be loved by those whom God accepts. The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself, so you will find favor in the sight of the Lord.

It is important to be rich, but it is more important to be nice. It is important to preach highly, but it is more important to preach humbly.

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