Revealing rather Lecturing: Evangelical Catholicism II

Devotional Discussion Quote of the day:

Yet the hard fact is that “The Church teaches . . .” is language destined to fall upon deaf ears in twenty-first-century cultures of radical subjectivity, in which the highest authority is the imperial autonomous Self. “The Gospel reveals . . .” is a different matter. “The Gospel reveals . . .” is a challenge in answer to the critique of the very idea of “revelation” mounted for the past two centuries by the high culture of the West. “The Gospel reveals . . .” is a challenge not unlike the challenge posed by Jesus to his disciples on the road to Caesarea Philippi: “Who do you say that I am?” [Mark 8.29]. By throwing down a gauntlet in the form of a proposal, “The Gospel reveals . . .” demands a response. That response may, initially, be skepticism, even hostility. But it will likely not be indifference. Moreover, if the truth, proclaimed clearly and fearlessly enough, has its own power— as two millennia of Christian history have shown—“ The Gospel reveals . . .” may, at the very least, be a conversation starter— unlike “The Church teaches . . . ,” which sets off every modern and postmodern and antiauthoritarian alarm bell in minds and hearts formed by the ambient culture of the twenty-first-century West. Evangelical Catholicism understands that there is an inherent connection between divine revelation and the Church: “The Gospel reveals . . .” eventually leads to “The Church teaches . . .” But it gets to the latter from a distinctive starting point. Evangelical Catholicism begins from an unapologetic confession of Christian faith as revealed faith—“ the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us” [1 John 1.2]. 5 That eternal life, that Word of God that has come into history in search of us, is “what we have seen and heard” [1 John 1.3]. (1)

I’ve had 11 courses in preaching – from 4 in my junior and senior years of Bible college, to my Master’s program – to 5 Doctoral Level courses where I was paired up with a mentor who was a mega church pastor.  (the ratio in those classes was 5:1)  In a lot of those courses, the style of preaching was similar.  We preached the word “authoritatively”,  that is, we were the experts.  We knew the Greek and Hebrew.  We were trained to dissect the text, and put it together in a way that would apply to the lives of those people. Indeed, one of the best classes was in how to comprehend the lives of our people.   Often times we included quotes from the great preachers, John Chrysotom, Martin Luther, the Wesley’s,  Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the modern guys like John Stott, or Chuck Swindoll, or Ken Korby or  and of course Spurgeon – using their wisdom and ability to thread words together into beautiful tapestries and shore up our weak points.

Some lessons ran counter to that… and those are the ones that make the above quote resound

My first preaching teacher, Doug Dickey, told me once that every sermon has to share the love of Christ, to not worry about being brilliant, but simply show those listening about Jesus.
Juan Carols Ortiz, my mentor in the doctoral level program, told me not to lecture, but to tell a story, that walks the people along the road with Jesus, allowing them to get to know Him, to feel His love, His gentle correction, and even the joy that He feels, as we respond to that love.
And WMC  introduced me to the style of preaching that is considered the distinctive approach of Lutheran preaching – to afflict those comforted in their sin, and comfort those afflicted by their sin. (see Walther’s “The proper distinction between Law and Gospel”)

Those rules can work within a standard presentation, whether it is a sermon, or over a glass of diet coke/coffee/tea/beer.  But in each of those roles, we are pulled out of the model of the lecturer, the one who says the Church (whether Catholic or Lutheran ro Calvary Chapel or Baptist) says… (or its stars say) to reveal to those we are in dialogue with the incredible person of Jesus Christ, the One who is the way, the truth and the live.  Not as what I think of him, but as how He has revealed himself to us, through the scriptures, through the very word of God, given to prophets and apostles, that they would reveal to us the living Christ, to invite us into His presence.

There is a big difference there, that as Wiegel says leaves the post-modernist and the skeptic with something that strips their post-modernism and leaves them, a human being needing to get to know this Person.  It causes the one who says they want to be spiritual but not religious with the insight that you can’t divide your knowledge and practice – because God gave us both, in order to be in a relationship with us, revealing in us each – our ability to trust Him, and that we are entrusted to Him.

So my brothers who preach, and to all who share the gospel, it is time for the Apocalypse – no, not the end of times horror stories of novels.  But what the word really means – to unveil the Lord Jesus Christ, to reveal the height and depth and breadth and width of the Love of God revealed to us, to the people who so desperately need to know it.

And may all who do this, whether Lutheran or Catholic, Reformed or Wesleyan, Baptist or Pentecostal, rejoice as Christ is made known…

(1)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 30). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on March 2, 2013, in Devotions, Theology in Practice and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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