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Tell Me The Story….Write on My Heart Every Word


Devotional Thought of the Day
34  Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. 35  This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: “I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.”   Matthew 13:34-35 (NLT)

After a brief pause, Jack said, “Explain yourself. I’m willing to hear you out.”
“Okay,” I said, “but to explain myself I have to tell you a story.” I sensed a puzzlement on his part, so I quickly added, “All spiritualities are based on a story. You have to know the story of a particular religion to understand its spirituality.”
This statement aroused the curiosity of everyone. “Tell the story,” said Jack. “Maybe I don’t know the story; as a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Christianity told as a story.”
“Okay,” I responded, “but I have to tell you I can’t prove the story.”1
“I like that! I don’t like it when religious people try to prove their faith. Just the fact that you say that we shouldn’t try to prove the story with history and science makes me want to listen.”

899      The children of God are present and give witness in the world to draw others, not to be drawn by them. They should spread their own atmosphere, the atmosphere of Christ, not let themselves be won over by a different atmosphere.

One of the hardest lessons to learn in preaching is that it is very different from teaching, very different from teaching, very different from giving a lecture.  

The goal isn’t merely to impart knowledge and information, but to draw someone into a relationship, to draw someone into the story, to reveal to them that they have a part, a role, and are wanted.  (This is true not only about the sermon but about any time we bear witness to Jesus, that we share His love with others) 

This is profoundly different than the way I was taught in the early days, in classes like Expository Preaching and Homiletics.  I have written similarly before on apologetics, that the idea is not to win a case, to convince someone to judge Christianity right based on the proof I present.  

We simply need to tell the story, to tell it so well the people are drawn into their place in the story, 

This is why the post-modern sermon needs to be transparent, that the messenger be willing to tell his portion of the story transparently, the brokenness, the sin and shame (though not in great detail) the hopelessness that exists when we take our eyes off of Jesus, and His continual drawing us back, and the peace that comes when we see Him again.  For if they know God can help us, then we are writing on their hearts the word of the story, the “God so loved (me)”, the “body broken/blood shed for (me).  

I would assert that teaching the Bible without making the connection to the listener is not preaching, it is not bearing witness to Jesus.  It is simply giving people, overloaded with facts, more facts to deal with intellectually.  It appeals to their baser instinct, that they are the judge of reality.  But they aren’t the judges, they are not just interested observers.  So why preach to them if they were.  Telling them the story involves them, it helps reveal to them that they aren’t observers and judges, but part of the story. 

This takes the objective truth of salvation and helps it become subjective as well.  It takes the historical information stored in our minds and makes it meaningful to our heart and soul.

This is the mystery that has been revealed, that which has been hidden from the beginning of the world.  The mystery of God and His people, the people He makes His own, the mystery of how you and I, broken by our sin and the sin of the world, are picked up, healed, brought home.

That is preaching, that is bearing witness to God’s love, that is giving people what God wants them to comprehend.

Tell me the story, write on my heart every word, tell me the story of Jesus (and us), greatest that every was heard.

AMEN!

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3181-3182). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why I Gave Up Exegetical Preaching for Apocalyptic Preaching


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28  So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29  That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:27-29 (NLT)

“The key is not to offer commentary but to help the people in the pews understand what is happening in the text so that they can understand what is happening now and respond in faith,”  (1)

Just as steel must be warmed before it can be molded or bent, the human heart must be warmed by the love of God in order to overcome fear and be molded by the truth of Gospel, the archbishop said. Without encountering the love of Christ, “the faith simply looks like rules and regulations.” Ultimately, priests and deacons foster an encounter with God when they preach Christ crucified, he said.  (2)

When I was a Bible College Student, the method of preaching that everyone was being trained in was called expository or exegetical preaching.  You went through a book of the scriptures, chapter by chapter, sometimes verse by verse, explaining the background, the language, the details so that people would have a deep knowledge of the passage.  This was the method of greatly admired preachers like Chuck Swindoll, John MacArthur, Haddon Robinson, and within my brother at the time, pastors like Ben Merold and Max Lucado.  Denominations like Calvary Chapel still make the claim that this is the only way to preach.

It was such a popular method that 3 of my four undergraduate courses in preaching were based in it, as were most of the 40 units I had in Bible.  I have a good friend who has his MDiv and another graduate degree in it. I was trained in that way, and I still teach some Bible studies that way.

But I don’t preach that way anymore. Haven’t in a while.

And as I am teaching a course in preaching (called Homiletics) at the present moment, I’ve been thinking about it.  How do you describe the style of preaching?  I was reading the article the blue quotes come from, and I realized the word I was looking for to describe the style of preaching.

APOCALYPTIC

Now, before you get the idea that I am talking about end times scary stuff, that is not what apocalyptic means, nor for that matter what the apocalypse is about.

Apocalyptic preaching is revelatory! It reveals! It is about teaching what was hidden, what was concealed.  Apocalyptic preaching is about that which was hidden behind the curtain (not the Wizard of Oz’s curtain, but the one in the Tabernacle/Temple.)  It is what Paul is talking about to the church in Colossae – our hope is found in the secret being revealed.  The secret of Christ being in us, being united to us, and us to His cross and resurrection.  That united to Him, we will share in His glory, we will live eternally in the presence and love of God the Father.

Revealing that secret to people who are broken by this world, by its sin, just as the people ere in the days of Jesus, and all the days since Adam and Eve were broken.  That God desires to bring healing to them, not just understanding.  That God wants to reconcile them, not just demand from them. The sermon is to reveal Him to them, the relationship He desires to have with them, it should strengthen that relationship, help they trust Him, depend on them.

That isn’t always done if you are worried about defining the minutiae.  What needs to be done, – show them their need for God, and show them, God, not just wanting to meet that need, but desiring to, no matter what it costs. Or what it costed. This is what gets us through the tough days, this is what gives us hope as we try to cope without our brokenness and the worlds.  It is what gives us hope, even as we deal with death.

One last quote from the article.

“Sobering recent statistics reveal many Catholics (I would say Christians of many stripes) don’t even think it’s possible to have a friendship with God, so they certainly don’t know, with every fiber of their being, that they are loved, infinitely and passionately, by the One who has made it all,” he said  (3)

Helping then know that, this is the nature of apocalyptic preaching. It is giving them the reason we have hope.  To know that are cry, “Lord have mercy” is heard.

May everyone who preaches this weekend do that, and may people see revealed the love they need… and have.  God’s.

(1)  http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/archbishop-to-priests-heres-how-to-not-give-bad-homilies-17455/

(2)  Ibid

(3)  Ibid

Why Preaching Is/Should Be Different


Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

23  The LORD says, The wise should not boast of their wisdom, nor the strong of their strength, nor the rich of their wealth. 24  If any want to boast, they should boast that they know and understand me, because my love is constant, and I do what is just and right. These are the things that please me. I, the LORD, have spoken. Jeremiah 9:23-24 (TEV)

Christian preaching does not proclaim “words”, but the Word, and the proclamation coincides with the very Person of Christ, ontologically open to the relationship with the Father and obedient to his will. Thus, an authentic service to the Word requires of the priest that he strive for deeper self-denial, to the point that he can say, with the Apostle, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”. The priest cannot consider himself “master” of the Word, but its servant. He is not the Word but, as John the Baptist, whose birth we are celebrating precisely today, proclaimed, he is the “voice” of the Word: “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mk 1:3).

For the priest, then, being the “voice” of the Word is not merely a functional aspect. On the contrary, it implies a substantial “losing of himself” in Christ, participating with his whole being in the mystery of Christ’s death and Resurrection: his understanding, his freedom, his will and the offering of his body as a living sacrifice (cf. Rm 12:1–2). Only participation in Christ’s sacrifice, in his kenosis, makes preaching authentic!  (1)

As I was doing research about the passage I am preaching from in Mark’s gospel on Sunday, I came across the above quotes.   I suppose it is odd for a Lutheran pastor to be quoting a Roman Catholic pope, but I will acknowledge the truth in his words about pastoral authenticity.

One of my mentors once told me that preaching is different than public speaking, That a pastor/priest who is a skilled at crafting a sermon may be a horrible public speaker.  And just because someone is a skilled public speaker, doesn’t mean that he will have the same effectiveness in a sanctuary that he does speaking at a conference or convention.

This is why, a speaker’s effectiveness depends on his strengths.  His practiced skill, his personal charisma, his training to control his audience.  It is a craft that can be sharpened and honed like a find knife blade.  While a pastor also needs to develop, our strength is found not in our skill and perfection, but from our brokenness, our despair, our desperate need for hope.

It’s not about how much Hebrew or Greek we know, or how much of the Bible we have memorized.  It’s about knowing God, and being so in awe of Him that we cannot help sharing that awe. We lose our “self” in His glory, in the healing that He brings into our lives, in the answer to our prayer to rip open heaven and come show us the mercy we need.

We find our lives and our message in our baptism, that incredible sacrament, where we first die with Christ, that we might live with Him.  We need to recall this repeatedly, daily, seeing that baptismal promise of God renewed, strengthening us.  We know and understand this first and foremost, this life He has given us, this journey we make with Him.

That is what causes the fire in our preaching, it is what must empower the message we share, that we know God does this, because He does it here. in our lives.  It is the blessing we have, that we can say with Paul,

“15 This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them, 16 but God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show his full patience in dealing with me, the worst of sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 To the eternal King, immortal and invisible, the only God—to him be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen!  1 Timothy 1:15-17 (TEV)

May our need for Jesus’ presence, and His answering that cry be revealed to those who we serve, in order that they will know He will answer their cries as well.  May that authenticity not frighten those who preach, but may they embrace it, that their people would know God’s faithfulness…to them.

AMEN.


(1)  Benedict XVI. (2013). General Audiences of Benedict XVI (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Preaching with A Soul on Fire: A Necessity!


Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church
27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:27-29 (TEV)

14  But even if you should suffer for doing what is right, how happy you are! Do not be afraid of anyone, and do not worry. 15  But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:14-15 (TEV)

815         You have seen very clearly your vocation to love God, but only with your head. You assure me that you have put your heart into the way you are following. But you say that you are distracted at times, and even attempt to look back. That is a sign that you have not completely put your heart into it. You need to be more sensitive!  (1)

The second requisite for effective preaching is that the preacher not only himself believe the things he preaches to others, but that his heart be full of the truths which he proclaims, so that he enters his pulpit with the ardent desire to pour out his heart to his hearers. He must have an enthusiastic grasp, in the right sense of the word, of his subject. Then his hearers get the impression that the words dropping from his lips are flames from a soul on fire. That does not mean that the Word of God must receive its power and life from the living faith of the preacher; for the Lord says distinctly: “The words that I speak, they are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63. Moreover, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says: “The Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb. 4:12. But when a preacher proclaims what he has ever so often experienced in his own heart, he easily finds the right words to speak convincingly to his hearers. Coming from the heart, his words, in turn, go to the hearts of his hearers, according to the good old saying: Pectus disertum facit, that is, it is the heart that makes eloquent. This does not mean the artificial eloquence acquired in a school of elocution, but the sane spiritual art of reaching the hearts of hearers. For when the hearers get the impression that the preacher is in full and dread earnest, they feel themselves drawn with an irresistible force to pay the closest attention to what the preacher is teaching in his sermon. That is the reason why many simple, less gifted, and less learned preachers accomplish more than the most highly gifted and profoundly learned men.  (1)

In our midweek Bible Study, I have been teaching about preaching this summer.  Not because my people are going to preach from the pulpit, but because:

1)  It will help them interact with the sermon/homily more, and therefore benefit from it more

2)  It may help me grow in the area of preaching>

As we are going through a very elemental book on the craft of preaching, I came across the quote above in blue.  I very well may take the italicised part of that and hang it above my desk,   It is to become a goal of mine, knowing the context from where the quote comes.

I want people to know what I know, the presence of God.  Gosh I want them to know it.

Why?

Because it seems to me the only way to survive this life.  To get through things like I’ve gone through in life. the pains, the surgeries, the anxieties, the pain.  To deal with things like the sin which the author of Hebrews says so easily ensnares us.  For it does, and the grief and shame of our own sin can crush us, and resentment towards those who sin against us can tear our souls apart.

To be able to deal with death, something I’ve had to deal with since a child, my own hovering over me, and later, ministering to those who are dieing, and those who were left behind.  Knowing God’s promises are the only way to deal with that pressure.  To deal with demons as well, both those who are figurative, the idols we create that drag our life’s focus from God, and the real one’s who work to destroy our life by attempting to destroy our relationship with God.  We see both of those demons at work today, although we can never quite be sure which is which… both are real.

I love Escriva’s words, and I Pray mine would encourage people to believe with their heart (as Paul talks about in Romans 10), to know God, and relate to Him as their Lord, as their Savior.  Not to just know about Him.

Can a sermon be passionate, charismatic, full of zeal and dripping with flames from a soul on fire?

It can, if the pastor, the priest, the preacher has been broken and by God’s loving kindness is healing.

For as we heal – we begin to see the height, the depth, the breadth and the width of the love of God, revealed to us all in Christ Jesus.

That’s preaching…. that’s proclaiming.

And our people, not from pulpits, but in their homes, and their workplaces, in restaurants, coffee shops, in line at Walmart, will begin to do the same.

For such is our glory, the hope that we have in Christ Jesus….

And may we share it with zealous love.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3361-3364). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Walther, C. F. W., Dau, W. H. T., & Eckhardt, E. (2000). The proper distinction between law and gospel: 39 evening lectures (electronic ed., p. 112). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

The Chief Purpose of all Preaching…


Jesus christ(coptic)

Jesus christ(coptic) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

 1  When I came to you, my friends, to preach God’s secret truth, I did not use big words and great learning. 2  For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross.  1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (TEV)

 27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in meColossians 1:27-29 (TEV)

“Homileticians from a wide variety of Christian traditions advocate the preaching of Christ. For example, the Roman Catholic author Domenico Grasso states, “The object and content of preaching is Christ, the Word in which the Father expresses Himself and communicates His will to man.”  The Eastern Orthodox Georges Florovsky asserts, “Ministers are commissioned and ordained in the church precisely to preach the Word of God. They are given some fixed terms of reference – namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ – and they are committed to this sole and perennial message.” The Lutheran homiletician M. Reu contends, “It is necessary that the sermon be Christocentric, have no one and nothing else for its centre and content than Christ Jesus.” The Reformed homiletician T. Hoekstra maintains, “In expositing Scripture for the congregation, the preacher … must show that there is a way to the center even from the farthest point on the periphery. For a sermon without Christ is no sermon.” And the Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon says, “Preach Christ, always and everywhere. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our one great, all-comprehending theme.”5 Authors from a broad spectrum of traditions, therefore, testify to the necessity of preaching Christ.”  (1)

Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, save that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns, which have been added to teach the people. For ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned be taught [what they need to know of Christ]. (2)

Just shy of 30 years ago, I met a very humble and unique man, my first professor of preaching, Doug Dickey.  As I tried to learn to write sermons, Doug instilling in me a mantra, “Dustin, if it’s not about Christ, it’s not a sermon!”  I would try to preach about saving the world, about being a better person, about all sort of good things I saw in the text.  But Doug kept on coming back to the basic concept – it had to be about Jesus and His work to bring us to the Father.  I would love to say I learned quickly from Doug, who also ran the college’s ministry to the huge Cal State across the street, but… well.. I was a typical sophomore… a very wise fool.  Two of the passages that convinced me are there above. 


Yesterday, in starting my doctoral work, I am well aware of the wise fool in my, and my ability to go off on tangents that are stimulating and enjoyable and lack any mention of God’s desire to save us, or His work in setting us apart for His purposes of fellowship and loving service of those we encounter.   It was in my first book to read, that I ran across the quote above, noting that this idea of revealing to people God’s love and His desire for them to share in His glory is not just a Restoration Movement ideal, or that of Luther, but it crosses the lines of the church that divide us.   If there is a point where the church can, no must unite, it is here, in Christ to who we are united in both His death and His resurrection.  In the end, litle else will matter, and in truth, in this life nothing else matters as much.

We can talk about all the sins of the world (but not our own), we can point to the glorious worship (which ever is our style) we can talk of leadership or marriage, of finding fulfilment, of motivating people to save the world.  We can call ourselves missional, or confessional, liberal or conservative, traditional or contemporary.  It doesn’t matter.

Unless we reveal the love of God, unless we share His desire to see all brought to repentance/transformation, unless we show how that is what He is doing in us because of the cross….

Our work is in vain…

Thanks  Doug – for helping me realize that Jesus Christ is not just the core of our message – He is our message.

 

 

(1)Sidney Greidanus. Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method (Kindle Locations 118-126). Kindle Edition.

(2) — Augsberg Confession, Article XXIV, Wordsearch Electronic Edition

Will we trust what God has revealed? Or must we explain (and know) more than that?


Devotional and Discussion thought off day…

 25  And I have been made a servant of the church by God, who gave me this task to perform for your good. It is the task of fully proclaiming his message, 26  which is the secret he hid through all past ages from all human beings but has now revealed to his people. 27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. Colossians 1:25-27 (TEV)

Let us not try to reduce the greatness of God to our own poor ideas and human explanations. Let us try to understand that this mystery, for all its darkness, is a light to guide men’s lives. As Saint John Chrysostom said: “We see that Jesus has come from us, from our human substance, and has been born of a virgin mother; but we don’t know how this wonder came about. Let us not waste our energies trying to understand it; rather, accept humbly what God has revealed to us. Don’t try to probe what God has kept hidden.”5 If we have this reverence, we will be able to understand and to love. The mystery will be a splendid lesson for us, much more convincing than any human reasoning. (1)

Thirty years ago this fall I started studying Theology seriously, well as much as an 18year old dual major in Bible (exegetical theology) and Homiletics can be “serious”.  During that time I have seen a lot labelled theology which is at best that which is called, “speculation”.  The speculators are sincere, have great intentions, and are often brilliant.  Their brains work like super computers, and they can store and analyze so much, that to be honest, I often find myself in awe when I am in their presence.   Until they move from knowledge that is scriptural into the realms of speculation.  Some of those who speculate (and which of us haven’t) aren’t so bright, and indeed, we make some of the most challenging errors.

Examples abound these days, and indeed throughout history.  The movement known as Higher Criticism, which combines historical and linguistic knowledge of scripture and its environs, but then turns to specualtion when it makes the data subservient to the observations and logic of the scholars examining it.   Another example is those who will wax eloquent on the relationship of justification and santification, or those who debate on the nature of the Eucharist – with such speculation as to when it becomes, to the radii at which the Words of Institution are effective.  These all take that which God hasn’t revealed – and make it not only necessarily to meditate on such things – but to come up with the categories and prove their “logic.  Another mystery is the Incarnation and the two natures of Christ.  And the list grows and grows, including eschatology, pneumatology, baconatology (why can good things happen to bad people) etc.

English: The Lord's Supper. Christ standing at...

English: The Lord’s Supper. Christ standing at an Orthodox altar, giving the Eucharist to the Twelve Apostles. Frescoes in the upper church of Spaso-Preobrazhenski cathedral. Valaam Monastery Русский: Алтарная апсида верхнего храма Спасо-Преображенского собора Валаамского монастыря. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why can’t we leave what God left hidden, or left a mystery, hidden and a mystery?  Why can’t we simply accept that we will not be omniscient in this life – and continue to explore the height and depth, width and breadth of the love of God, revealed to us in Christ Jesus?

Ultimately, why can’t we trust God?

We have more than enough to work with – as Colossians informs us – we have the very glory of God, into which we are drawn, to examine.  We have the relationship – not of the divine and human attributes of Chirst, but the relationship between us and Christ to meditate upon.  Christ in us, the very gift of our baptism, the very thing we celebrate in the Lord’s supper, the assurance of our absolution leading to our being welcome in the presence of a Holy and Righteous God.  How is that someone that can be laid aside, in order to determine who was more accurate in their speculation about sanctification?

If we leave what God left as mystery, if instead we dwell on the incredible things He has revealed – will that not lead to a great appreciation of His role in our lives?   Will it not lead to wonder when we see a baptism and know the promises are for us?  Will it not lead to a reverent but absolutely joyous celebration of the Lord’s Supper?  Will it not lead to….worship and a desire to spend more time in communion with God?

Or do we grasp all that God has revealed all ready and full applied it within our lives?

I haven’t…

So let us rejoice we have a God who is so big -that we cannot understand all that He has created and planned, but we can rely on His faithfulness and His revelation…

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 667-674). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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.

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