Thursday, September 10, 2015

Preaching what we teach. . .

We have put it so many ways.  My own particular favorites include Neuhaus'Law ("Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.") but there have been many short laws or rules that tie what is preached (Sunday morning) with what is believed (all the rest of the week).  Martin Franzmann said "theology must sing" and so connected the faith sung in hymns with the faith believed or confessed. The whole point of this is to say that faith is not theory divorced from worship and life.  What we believe directly influences how we worship and how we live.  And the converse is also true.  That which is missing from our worship and daily lives will soon be absent from the body of doctrine we confess.

I wish I could recall who once put out a paper connecting the doctrines of the faith and how they were tied to the various pericopes of the lectionary.  The point here being that in the weekly proclamation of the Word within the assembly, the major doctrines of the faith would be covered so that the person in the pew would gain association of doctrine confessed with the Word of our Lord and the preaching of the Church.  (Perhaps someone could point me again to the source of this and email me a copy!)

The ultimate thesis is this:  a doctrine not preached is not believed.  It is a fallacy of our modern age and part of the corruption of the faith and our life as Christians that we have come to assume and to expect from the sermon practical advice on how to live happily, successfully, abundantly, and easily.  That is not its purpose.  That is not the purpose of Scripture.  Christ has not come to help us with our preoccupation with physical things in this mortal life.  He has come to deliver to us His kingdom, to bestow upon us now the life that death cannot steal, and to grant us eternal life in His presence forevermore.  He has come to make known to us His salvation and through this Word the Spirit works faith in us to believe it and to live the new lives we have received from Him in our baptism into Christ.

A doctrine not preached is not believed.  In other words, our fascination with easier, better, and richer lives now has left us bereft of the eternal life that Jesus and only Jesus can deliver to a people moribund by sin and its death.  Sunday morning and its regular preaching of God's Word is catechetical even if it is not primarily or exclusively catechesis.  We learn the faith from Scripture and the preacher applies the Word to our lives that we may know, believe, rejoice, and live in this faith now -- in anticipation of everlasting life.

When we stop preaching doctrinally, we cease our focus on Christ and His gifts and we become exactly like those people who followed Jesus looking for a quick and easy meal instead of the bread of heaven that feeds you till you want for nothing more. 
  • Stop preaching creation and God's miraculous work in making from nothing all things and you leave people with the notion that the Biblical language is merely sign and symbol for which science provides the facts.  
  • Stop preaching man's creation in the image and likeness of God and his purpose to exercise dominion over the creation and you are left with man who becomes his own god and with an ecology that glorifies nature more than man as God's crowning creation.  
  • Stop preaching the creation of male and female and the divine purpose of marriage and its shape of family and you are left with marriage that is for anyone and everyone who feels affection or desire for another.  
  • Stop preaching God as giver of all life and you are left with the idea that life is neither sacred nor desirable except when we choose to make it or want it and abortion, reproductive technology, and even the euthanasia or assisted suicide of those who lack our idea of a quality of life ensues.  
  • Stop preaching the incarnation and birth of Christ by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and we are left with Jesus the role model who acts as life coach to help us achieve our own desires and goals.  
  • Stop preaching sin and you are left with the idea that everything we want is possible if we work hard enough, are true to our selves, and act decisively to get it.  
  • Stop preaching repentance and faith becomes either an intellectual assent to some philosophical and subjective truths or a means to change behavior without affecting the heart, will, and desires of the person.  
I could go on and on.  I think you get the point.  If we cease preaching what we teach, we will cease teaching what Christ has revealed and we will become adrift on a sea of sentiment, desires, feelings, and wants...  which is pretty much what has happened to mainline Protestantism heading one direction and evangelicalism heading another.  Lutherans are people of the Word.  We can preach no less and the hearer should demand nothing less than the Word of the Lord that endures forever.  God help us from ourselves.


Joseph said...

Neuhaus'Law ("Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.")
A very apt description of the Reformation.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carl Vehse said...

Neuhaus'Law ("Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.")

It is sadly ironic that such a law was self-named in 1997 by a person who in 1990 left the orthodoxy of Christianity (aka, the Evangelical Lutheran Church) and descended into the papal abyss of the Romanist Church.

Unknown said...

On December 19th, 2013, Pastor Jason Braaten posted a schedule he had received from Pastor David Juhl for which doctrinal themes were to be taught on which Sundays.

The source was not given - but it appeared old and official enough ...

Carl Vehse said...

The December 19, 2013, Gottesdienst Online article, "Preaching Doctrine For Life," presents Rev. David Juhl's translated periscope list, "How a pastor can treat all the chief doctrines preaching the Gospel pericopes in one year."

ErnestO said...

Preaching what we teach should start with election.........
"But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."—2 Thessalonians 2:13-14.