Wednesday, November 16, 2011
A few more goodies from some good books on preaching...
“Forgive us our sins as we forgive every one who is indebted to us.” The Gospel truth is that forgiveness comes to us because God in Jesus died to and for our sins — because, in other words, the Shepherd himself became a lost sheep for our sake. And it is just that truth, I think, that Jesus underscores when he holds up the forgiveness of debts as the model for our imitation of his forgiving. A person who cancels a debt is a person who dies to his own rightful possession of life. Unless he does it out of mindlessness or idiotic calculation, he cannot write off what is justly due him without accepting his own status as a loser, that is, as dead. Death and resurrection are the key to the whole mystery of our redemption. We pray in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are forgiven in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and we forgive others in Jesus’ death and resurrection. If we attempt any of those things while still trying to preserve our life, we will never manage them. They are possible only because we are dead and our life is hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). And they can be celebrated by us only if we accept death as the vehicle of our life in him.
It is just this insistence, as I see it, that leads Jesus to the last phrase of the prayer, “and do not lead us into trial.” Life is a web of trials and temptations, but only one of them can ever be fatal, and that is the temptation to think it is by further, better, and more aggressive living that we can have life. But that will never work. If the world could have lived its way to salvation, it would have, long ago. The fact is that it can only die its way there, lose its ways there. (pg 222)
For Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to reward the rewardable, improve the improvable, or correct the correctable; he came simply to be the resurrection and the life of those who will take their stand on a death he can use instead of on a life he cannot. (pg 317)
Let us make an end: as long as you are struggling like the Pharisee to be alive in your own eyes–and to the precise degree that your struggles are for what is holy, just, and good — you will resent the apparent indifference to your pains that God shows in making the effortlessness of death the touchstone of your justification. Only when you are finally able, with the [tax collector], to admit that you are dead will you be able to stop balking at grace. (pg 344)
The Gospel of grace must not be turned into a bait-and-switch offer. It is not one of those airline supersavers in which you read of a $59.00 fare to Orlando only to find, when you try to buy a ticket, that the six seats per flight at that price are all taken and that the trip will now cost you $199.95. Jesus must not be read as having baited us with grace only to clobber us in the end with law. For as the death and resurrection of Jesus were accomplished once and for all, so the grace that reigns by those mysteries reigns eternally – even in the thick of judgment. (pg 355)
And another one of my favorites (from The Foolishness of Preaching):
Now will I urge you to read the Bible at all. Reading Scripture (at least as we commonly read the printed matter) is just as idle a suggestion. the trick is to hear the Scriptures, not simply to look at them, or to make a study of them, or turn them into proof texts for your pet theological system. The Lord has indeed made Scripture God's Word Writeen (by using the Holy Spirit's body-English -- or body-Hebrew, or body-Greek); but you mustn't stick at the words of Scripture to the detriment of the Word Himself. In the Bible the "Word of the Lord" is always someone speaking to you, not just someone writing memos for you to read at your desk. Indeed, if you glance at the history of reading, you'll find that perusing words silently was a late development: for millenia, people always read aloud (or else they moved their lips to hear the words in their minds). The first recorded instance of our now confirmed habit of reading to ourselves (and lately, of thinking that moving our lips is a sin, or that skimming is a skill worth acquiring) occurred when Augustine observed Anselm of Milan not moving his lips when he read. Our reading to ourselves has brought us to the sorry state where the only place that adults are read to out loud anymore is in church. (pg 61)