preaching?

Most preaching I have heard falls into one of a number of categories:

  1. self-validating (“We are much better than [insert group disliked]”)
  2. intellectual gymnastics (“The Trinity is like …”). [As an aside, a sermon on the current state of a theological discussion on an issue is the dullest of all!]
  3. service agreement (“Because Jesus died for you, you ought to …”)
  4. just follow the rules (“DO what the Bible/[Authority] says!”)
  5. carrot and stick (“DO this or go to hell”)
  6. hyper-grace or fatalistic (“nothing we do does any good so don’t try”)

I have fallen for each of the above when I have preached, especially #3 as a form of emotionally manipulating people into agreeing with me.

I can count the profound sermons on one hand. And these have not been about a theological issue, a doctrinal insight,  a new take on the liturgy, or seeing the hidden meaning in a scriptural text.

I find a lot of preaching has no clear purpose apart from that it should be done. And that is apart from the fact that rhetoric is a lost art – there is no development of the argument from point A to point B. And, of course, the preacher has so much to say that they cannot expand any point beyond simply stating a truth.

Or the sermon is seen as an intellectual activity like a lecture where a point of doctrine is the issue. So the sermon becomes an avalanche of information and distinctions, often leaving even the most educated overwhelmed. And the preacher is validated by feedback congratulating them for their brilliance – because, in the end, no one understood a word.

Jesus uses simple stories from everyday life to illustrate his mission and life. He does not invent a new terminology but he gives a new meaning to old language by his life and death. And he doesn’t answer questions no one is asking. His message is simple: love. Love God, love your neighbour, love your enemies.

Anyway, just an observation!

faith?

I have been thinking a little about “faith” – what is it? Too often we create two poles – faith and reason – and simply ask where a person stands. Is faith simply a choice to sidestep reason and accept something on authority? I wonder if it is not a little more fundamental – faith is the movement from being a human being to becoming a person, a single individual.

So I did a quick google and found this article from a psychologist, The Nature of Faith. The article has a nice start but I think the author misses something:

Finally, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is another important element to faith. Faith is not mere belief in the claim that God exists. Just believing a statement has little to do with one’s life, in many respects. The New Testament takes faith to include belief, but it goes beyond this as well. Faith also includes trust, in this case trust in God. So perhaps the best definition of faith is something like this: Faith is trusting in God, based on sound reasons.

Yes, faith in a statement about something is not faith in the Christian sense. Yet there is something more fundamental that the article misses: for the Christian tradition “faith” is not in a something but in a someone. Faith is primarily relational – it is mutual and reciprocal. It is a choice! But a choice to receive.

 

from SK’s Journal

Of what use would it be to me to discover a so-called objective truth, to work through the philosophical systems so that I could, if asked, make critical judgments about them, could point out the fallacies in each system; of what use would it be to me to be able to develop a theory of the state, getting details from various sources and combining them into a whole, and constructing a world I did not live in but merely held up for others to see; of what use would it be to me to be able to formulate the meaning of Christianity, to be able to explain many specific points — if it had no deeper meaning for me and for my life? And the better I was at it, the more I saw others appropriate the creations of my mind, the more tragic my situation would be, not unlike that of parents who in their poverty are forced to send their children out into the world and turn them over to the care of others. Of what use would it be to me for truth to stand before me, cold and naked, not caring whether or not I acknowledged it, making me uneasy rather than trustingly receptive. I certainly do not deny that I still accept an imperative of knowledge and that through it men may be influenced, but then it must come alive in me, and this is what I now recognize as the most important of all.