Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Poets, Prophets & Preachers: Monday Morning

Some think that the teachings of Rob Bell can be controversial. I guess I can see their point. And I suppose the the morning session on Monday might be ranked in that category.

The heart of the session zeroed in on where the sermon comes from: what is behind the sermon - what are the basic assumptions from which a sermon comes forth?

Without being overly simplistic, but giving a simple framework for differentiating two different starting points, Rob pointed out that sermons tend to come from either Genesis 1-2 or Genesis 3. Preachers tend to either focus on Genesis 1-2 as the start of the story of God's work in the world, or they focus on Genesis 3 as the starting point for the story of God.

Where and how you begin the story and where and how you end the story shape and determine what story you are telling.

Is the story being addressed by the sermon one about the removal of sin, the problem of sin, the rejection of sin? Or is the story the sermon in addressing is about God's restoration of the world, Jesus' reconciling work of shalom, the Spirit's renewal of all things? Sure, sin is definitely part of the story, but it's not the point of the story, or even the heart of the story. God is. And God said our world is good. God loves our world. And God has blessed this earth. And now he is at work always to rescue sinners, restore the rebels, and reconcile humanity whom God made in his image.

This Poets, Prophets & Preachers event has been affirming and stretching. When it comes to my preaching, I've been able to better understand what I knew intuitively to be where the Spirit was taking me. I know how much I want my preaching to be used by God to help others follow Jesus in their everyday life. While there are very important technical skills I need to develop to aid that work, there is also vital theological and philosophical elements I need to develop. Getting a better grasp of the Story, and how preaching fits into it, has been helpful.

If you start in Genesis 3, the emphasis in preaching is on the removal of sin, on what you aren't, on disembodied evacuation.
If you start in Genesis 1-2, the emphasis in preaching is on restoration of shalom, what you are, participatory physicality.

The story is about Jesus' resurrection...
beginning a new creation right her in the midst of this one
about God reaffirming the goodness of creation
is about anticipating the coming of the day when Heaven and Earth are one again.

Implications for business, art, justice: it's all good. It's all an avenue for God's work to move forward in the world. It's not above ministry, below it or alongside it: it is ministry.

A sermon, then...
is the continuing insistence that through the resurrection of Jesus a whole new world is bursting forth and everybody everywhere can be part of it.

is about helping people see this creation with their own eyes. "you will find what you are looking to see.."

then, brings hope rooted not in escape but engagement, not in evacuation but in reclamation, not in leaving but in staying and overcoming.

then is never surprised when grace, beauty, meaning, order, compassion, truth and love show up in all sorts of unexpected people and places because it always has been God's world, it is God's world, and it will always be God's world.


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