What the Reformation did for preaching

Evangelical theologian Timothy George has written a fascinating and illuminating post entitled “How the Reformation Recovered Preaching.”

Prof. George shows not only historical facts about how the Reformation put the sermon back into the worship service.  (Before, sermons were only given on special occasions, and often outdoors instead of in the sanctuary.)  Drawing deeply on Luther, He also explores the theology of the sermon, which is a “sacramental event.”

Read highlights after the jump.

(Painting by Lucas Cranach, Altarpiece at St. Mary’s Church, Wittenberg.  Reproduction by Torsten Schleese (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)

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Pastors defying the IRS by politicking from the pulpit

More and more pastors are endorsing particular candidates from the pulpit, purposefully defying the IRS law for non-profit tax-exempt organizations.  So far the IRS is ignoring the violations, but the pastors are goading the agency by sending it tapes of their sermons.

Is this a violation of Romans 13?  Also, under Romans 13, shouldn’t churches just pay taxes, thus preserving their ability to preach whatever they want?  Or can you make a case for this kind of civil disobedience?  There is also, of course, the theological issue of what is supposed to be preached from the pulpit–namely, Christ and Him crucified for sinners, as opposed to worldly powers and principalities.  Or can you give a theological reason for preaching about political candidates? [Read more…]

The pulpit as the Empty Tomb

Thanks to Darren Jones for pointing me to this post on how the Early Church linked the pulpit to Christ’s empty tomb. [Read more…]

Your God shall rejoice over you

Our church celebrated Sanctity of Life Sunday.  After making a no-holds- barred attack on the pro-death mentality, our pastor made a turn that we don’t always hear when Christians talk about this topic:

And especially on this Sanctity of Life Sunday we recognize how powerful is the mute idol of death. Which is so sadly ironic, that more and more people look for life and hope in death. What a grand deception and illusion this monstrous mute idol is! This slavery which masks itself as freedom; this evil which masks itself as good. . . .

But – be clear about what this means! (This is important. Make sure you’re paying attention here! Don’t zone out now.) [Read more…]

Preaching assurance vs. preaching doubt

I have noticed that there are two kinds of preachers, especially when addressing young people: One kind tries to assure the listeners of their salvation in Christ, underscoring His grace and mercy and His atoning work on the Cross. The other kind tries to make the listeners question whether they are “really” Christians. (“Did you REALLY give your life to the Lord? Do you show the fruit of true faith? Does your life show evidence of true conversion? Maybe you need to commit your life to him again, just to be sure.”)

Granted the problem of nominal Christianity. And granted the need to make people realize how sinful they are so as to help them grasp their need of the Gospel. But I would argue that the latter approach can do great harm. The one thing that DOES make a Christian is faith in Christ. Doubt is the opposite of faith. To make a person doubt his or her salvation is, ironically, to destroy faith, rather than to build it up. Furthermore, these “are you really a Christian” messages have the effect of making the hearers look within, at their good works or their feelings or their piety or whatever. Surely, whenever we look honestly at ourselves we will find nothing to commend ourselves before God. Rather, what needs to happen is to encourage troubled or doubting souls to look OUTSIDE themselves to the Cross of Jesus and the promises of God’s Word, to objective facts about God’s disposition towards them (“Did God cause you to be baptized? Have you taken the Lord’s Supper and heard the words “given for you”?)

I wonder if the attempts to scare young people into greater piety may be having the opposite effect.

Preaching “the King’s speech”

I was glad that The King’s Speech took all of the top prizes at the Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and (the critical but much neglected category) Best Original Screenplay.

The Lutheran Church of Canada has a nice reflection on how that movie about Prince Albert and his stuttering problem has parallels to what pastors have to do when they, in their stammering way, preach God’s Word, the true “King’s speech.”

Read it here:  Canadian Lutheran Online » Blog Archive » Stuttering kings and imperfect pastors.