Category: Preaching (page 2 of 20)

Life, Light, and Love

“What is good for us always comes screened by three unequivocal words: life, light, love. These are the same words which indicate the Person of the Father, the Person of the Son, and the Person of the Holy Spirit.

Defending life, witnessing light, living out love — these remain forever. They are the specific duty of anyone who calls upon God, following Christ’s unmistakable example.

An assembly where people do not love each other, where they accuse each other, where there is rancor or hatred, cannot call itself prophetic.

A person who keeps silent about the truth, who hides the light, is not a prophet.

A people which kills, which deteriorates the quality of life, which suffocates the poor, which is not free, is not a prophetic people.

It is not easy to prophesy; it is terribly costly. It has to be drawn from the silence of God, and there is need to swim against the stream, need to pray at length, need to be without fear.”

~ from The God Who Comes by Carlo Carretto

Equipped, Encouraged, and Inspired

When I arrived at Austin Graduate School of Theology in the fall of 2005, I knew how to write and how to speak; I did not know how to read the Bible or preach. Two years of excellent theological training at the feet of Austin Grad’s faculty gave me the solid foundation and start I wanted. Since then, the yearly Sermon Seminar provides the ongoing education and spiritual renewal I need.

For 48-years, the Austin Grad Sermon Seminar has been the go-to, roll-up-your-sleeves working conference for those of us who proclaim the Good News every week. The school annually brings together the best of our preachers and teachers of preachers to provide exegetical support, expository assistance, and homiletical help. It’s a combination worship retreat and sermon-planning session drenched in encouragement, faith, Christian hope, and joy. And the seminar last week was as good as any of them.

I was blessed by the fiery passion of Jim Reynolds as he opened the doors to the jailhouse church of Colossians and challenged us to view and preach all of Scripture through a Kingdom of God lens. I laughed out loud at the witty one-liners and quietly reflected on the penetrating insights of Mark Hamilton, who presented the Decalogue with authority and honesty. Hamilton at once amuses and convicts the whole room when he says of the Ten Commandments, “I thought if I ran short on time I would just skip the unpopular ones. Turns out, that’s all of them!” Harold Shank has such a remarkable way of making the ancient words feel like they were written yesterday, he left me trying to figure out how I could get away with preaching a two-year series from Deuteronomy. And Allen Black reminded us of the grand themes of the Gospel of Luke, inspiring us to declare and commit to the world for which our Lord lived and died.

A preacher can get solid exegesis and theological insights from any number of fine conferences. But at Austin Grad, they begin, end, and saturate every session with how it might all benefit the Church. How does the Church need to hear this? Why is this important for the Church? How does this passage increase faith? How do these verses help people live better lives and make sense of the chaos that surrounds them? Those are the questions that drove my professors fifteen years ago and still seem to be at the heart of Austin Grad’s every intent.

Every year, I leave the Sermon Seminar better equipped, encouraged, and inspired for the task to which I am called. I would invite you to make your plans with me now for the 49th event in 2020.

Peace,

Allan

Prayer for Faithful Teaching

O God, you are the fountain of all truth;
we ask you to protect the Church from all false teaching.

Protect the Church
from all teaching and preaching which would destroy men’s faith;
from all that removes the old foundations without putting anything in their place;
from all that confuses the simple, that perplexes the simple, that bewilders the way-faring man.

And, yet at the same time, protect the Church
from the failure to face new truth;
from devotion to words and ideas which the passing of the years have rendered unintelligible;
from all intellectual cowardice and from all mental lethargy and sloth.

O God, send to your Church teachers
whose minds are wise with wisdom;
whose hearts are warm with love;
whose lips are eloquent with truth.

Send to your Church teachers
whose desire is to build and not destroy;
who are adventurous with the wise, and yet gentle with the simple;
who strenuously exercise the intellect, yet remember that the heart has reasons of its own.

Give to your Church preachers and teachers who can make known the Lord Christ to others because they know themselves;
and give to your Church hearers who, being freed from prejudice, will follow truth as blind men long for light.

This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

~William Barclay, Prayers for the Christian Year

According to Eddie Sharp

A definition of preaching: the art of talking in someone else’s sleep.

Sooner or Later

“Sooner or later, someone must take his courage in one hand and his Bible in the other, throw all concern regarding his own pursuits to the wind, and say what needs to be said!”

                                                                                                                                         ~N. T. Wright

Hearing the Good News

Bad news is killing us. It’s everywhere and it’s doing us in. Bad news dominates the headlines and it rules the airwaves. Bad news crawls across our screens and flashes through our feeds. It’s in the email from your boss, the phone call from your mother, and the text from your friend. And it’s killing us. It gets inside us. Bad news diminishes our faith. It steals our hope. It drains our lives.

Good news seems scarce. It’s hard to find. When we do happen to hear some good news, it’s only a matter of moments before some bad news replaces it. The bad news is louder. And bigger. And more urgent. Seems like there’s more of it. All the bad news in our world and in our culture, in our governments and schools and churches, in our families — it’s making us numb.

Bad news doesn’t surprise us anymore. We’re used to it, we expect it. And as it diminishes our faith and steals our hope and drains our very lives, we’re kinda stopped looking for good news. If we do stumble upon some good news, it’s harder for us to believe it. To trust it.

On that first Easter morning, the disciples of Jesus heard some really good news that broke through and obliterated all the bad news they couldn’t quite shake. The message came directly from the divine lips of angels: Jesus is risen from the grave! Jesus is alive! The good news declared decidedly that everything broken in this world is now being fixed, everything that’s wrong is now made right; our faith can be restored, our hope can be renewed, our lives can be made full and whole. And this same good news continues to reverberate down through the generations into our ears and hearts today.

Jesus is risen from the grave! Jesus is alive!

This good news of great joy for the whole world is just as mind-blowing and history-changing today as it was then. It’s no less true for us in Texas in 2018 than it was for Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem on that first Easter. This great news causes our faith to soar, it brightens our hope, and it abundantly fills our lives today and for all eternity.

But can we hear it? Can we hear this good news?

The Easter sermon is the hardest one to write. It’s nearly impossible. And it struggle with it every year. I’ve been working on what I want to say Sunday for parts of the past three months. But it just hasn’t come together like I had hoped. It’s not enough.

Reinhold Niebuhr is quoted as saying he would always attend a “high church” on Easter Sunday where there would be great music but very little preaching. In his view, “No preacher is up to the task on Easter.” I think he’s probably right.

John Updike wrote a poem called “Seven Stanzas at Easter” that perfectly and beautifully captures every preacher’s frustration leading up to Easter Sunday. One of the lines is, “Let us not mock God with metaphor / analogy, sidestepping transcendence… / let us walk through the door.”

It’s a waste of time to try to explain the resurrection. Some things can’t be reduced to an explanation and are greatly diminished in the process of trying.

The task on Easter is proclamation, not explanation. On Easter, I should only offer an invitation to walk through the door into a brand new world where the ultimate reality is not dying or death, but everlasting life in the God Almighty of love and grace who brought our Lord Jesus up out of the grave. Proclaim the resurrection, that’s what the apostles do. And that’s what all us preachers should be planning to do Sunday.

Because our people need to hear the good news.

Peace,

Allan

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