Monday, April 6, 2009

Preaching the Creative Word


The Bible, both Old and New Testament finds its unity in Christ and him crucified and raised for our offenses. Gustav Wingren speaks of the cross as the “center of gravity…the starting point, the foundation and the end of theology.” The new testament is “new” because it brings the proclamation of this new and heavenly message, that God’s Word and promise in Christ has “slayed the beast and frees us out of the grasp of evil (Rev. 19:11-13).



The preaching task is obliterated when the resurrection is separated from the event of the crucifixion and bitter death. As Easter approaches, it is true that Easter morning services will be attended by the droves while only a scant few will attend the Good Friday service. Easter is always a big hit because there is a joyous celebration with motifs of life, purity, optimistic feelings, and joyous music – surely trumpets and the Handel halleluiah chorus. Yet, Easter morning means nothing if God did not become incarnate in the virgin to bear the sins of the world, suffering the pangs of hell in our place, to be crucified, tortured, mocked and cursed. God’s glory is manifest here – that God himself desires to be the suffering servant for his very creation – that the atonement is a matter within God himself. The modern mind does not easily apprehend the glory of crucifixion, of God’s bloody death on a cross. It simply is not very palatable of an idea that the God of creation makes of himself a lamb to be led to the slaughter. Yet, the wisdom of God is foolishness to the proud, for we are not saved by moral legality but only by this act of God. For this reason, Good Friday is not attended with the same fervor as Easter morning - though it truely ought to be. This crucifixion - Good Friday - must be preached in its fullness. For God’s act on the cross not only brings Easter morning but first and foremost a crucifixion. Death is the source of our life, for we are baptized into his death that we may die to our former selves and be resurrected as blessed and holy saints of God, finding fervent love toward God and neighbor.


Preaching occupies the interim time between Christ’s resurrection and His parousia. It is the speaking in the present, in the “now” and unto eternity. The Pastor occupies a space and time to speak and hand over what is given. Wingren describes the spread of the gospel as both geographical and historical that moves “out towards the people and onward towards the Parousia, to the end of the earth and to the close of the age” In this message only one things matters. It is to hear what Christ say – to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. This oral message - this living voice of God sounds out to the ends of the earth to forgive sins, bring life out of death, and comfort contrite hearts.


The office and act of preaching is itself the act of salvation. Preaching is not an addition, an “add on” to the Gospel, but marks its carrying out – it is the delivery of the goods. Preaching is God’s work. God is a preacher who creatively works life, love, and salvation in his creatures. Furthermore, preaching the gospel and its reception in faith is not quiet matter. It is addressed, spoken, confessed, sung, and prayed. Therefore preaching and the dialectic message of reconciliation is noisy – an unrelenting spoken promise in the violent wind of Pentecost where the Pastor speaks “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ… Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”


The Pastor does not read the Bible as a mere history of things longs since past. For the church is grafted into God’s revelation of creation and the advent of Christ. The biblical narrative is the narrative of humanity. Rather than “standing over” God’s Word to be “interpreters,” “knowers,” and “doers” we must place ourselves under it, to listen to it, as Mary at the feet of our Lord – to be interpreted, known, and done by God. The preacher is not studying an artifact in the biblical text, but has the living Word of God - a word which creates from genesis unto the present, and into Revelation and the final consummation of all things. This living voice of the Gospel that is preached throughout the world is the same voice that created the world and said, “let there be light!” and “Lazarus, come out!” This calling forth from death to life is the ongoing work of God, in the continuation of the Bible, which is the preached word, baptism, and Lord’s Supper.

2 comments:

  1. Hello Michael,

    Leaving aside questions whether preaching is the ‘act of salvation’ or whether it is a sacrament with baptism and communion or whether there is preaching after the parousia, I am interested here with some comments you made as a follow-on to your Hamann posting. You say that “[r]ather than ‘standing over’ God’s Word to be ‘interpreters’, ‘knowers’, and ‘doers [Are we not supposed to be doers and not hearers of the word? – Peter] we must place ourselves under it, to listen to it, as Mary at the feet of our Lord – to be interpreted, known, and done by God”. This is a Greek passive view and not a Hebrew dynamic view. Are Jewish women stereotypically renowned for not ‘just’ sitting and listening? Did not Martha stand and argue? Would she have sat and listened? Martha is usually ‘hard-done-by’ in the Church, as is Thomas, but I have much respect for her faith and interaction with our Lord.

    Then you gone on to say “The preacher is not studying an artefact in the biblical text, but has the living Word of God”. Yes, this Living Voice did call out so that what was not was. Let doxologies flow! But did not the same Living Voice commune with Adam and Eve, listened to Abraham, argued with Moses, and responded to Habbakuk. The Living Voice is declarative but He is also interactive. However, the tabernacle was an artefact, where God met with Israel, and it can be studied in detail from the given revelation. Jesus of Nazareth, who ‘tabernacled amongst us’, was the Son of Man but also the Son of God. And He was questioned as to whether He was Joseph’s son and He asked questions as to who people thought he was, so inviting interpretation. So let doxologies doubly flow: for the Word of God who tabernacles, declares, interacts and invites interpretation; and for the Word of God with its revelation-given artefact structure and its declarative and interactive voice; it giving interpretation and inviting interpretation. Let us not look for the living Word of God without the artefact of the biblical text, for that is like looking for an objective meaning outside of the text!

    Christ Will Come Again,

    Peter

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  2. Dear Peter,

    I agree with you that Martha and Thomas are more often than not given an unfair hearing. It certainly wasn't my intention to pit one sister against the other. I think I was emphasizing the primacy of hearing - hanging on the words of Jesus - that Christ first serves before being served. I think this is probably the most misunderstood element of Christianity - that the highest form of worship is simply receiving.

    I appreciate your critique here that the Biblical text is artefact - that it is a historical document that preaches and teaching the living voice of God. It would certainly not separate the historical text from the voice of God who speaks to his church.

    Like you I believe the Lord invites interpretation, yet faith must be granted that we might receive his Gospel..I need to head to maundy thursday service..hope to continue this conversation later.

    Mike

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