Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Are you fretting about what to say for Holy Week and Easter?

You're not alone. Words fail in the face of Christ's passion, crucifixion and resurrection. Sermons too often cushion the cosmos-jolting impact of the Biblical texts in this Holy time.

I found some encouragement in these words from Andrew Purves of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, in The Crucifixion of Ministry (IVP Books, 2007),

"Is there any more stupid comment about a sermon than the church-door comment 'Good sermon, Pastor'? What is being said? 'I approve of/enjoyed/was stimulated by what Jesus was saying this morning.' By such a comment we sermon-hearers make ourselves the arbiters of the value and virtue of the Word of God.

The reverse also applies when we think it is our place to express dissatisfaction over what Jesus said and did. Certainly the preacher can get in the way of proclamation through not bearing faithful witness to what Jesus is saying to the people, through getting too much into the center of things or through muddled thinking and poor expression. Nevertheless the sermon is still not ours to control.

When the sermon bears witness to what Jesus is saying, that is entirely a miracle of God's making. The Word of God, Jesus, apart from whom there is no sermon, chooses to address his people. That is the miracle week by week on which we depend. Teach this to the people so that they grow in knowledge of the miracle of our salvation. Deus dixit, God speaks.

Christ is the teacher of the things of God..."

Please pray for all preachers, that we will let our cushioning instinct get nailed to the cross. That our causes, agendas and church platitudes will get nailed, too. That Jesus will, like "the lady Madeline of Usher... with blood upon her white robes, and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated frame..." take every manifestation of our ungodly interference "to the floor a corpse," so that we can rise up with our living Christ and let him do the talking. He loves the people, he died for them and he is their hope whether or not they recognize it right now. No reason to cushion them - our ourselves - from that truth, that hope, that love that only he can give.

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