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In The Temptations Of Jesus, It Was The Devil Who Proffered Common Sense (via Will Willimon)

The temptation to adjust preaching from offering Christ to offering helpful advice about how to live you best life now has an old pedigree.
The temptation should be resisted at all costs. We live by the word of God alone.

From Accidental Preacher by Will Willimon.

I’m old enough to remember when preachers were expected to be good with Scripture. These days we’re cast into the role of experts doling out advice on marriage, business, the purpose—driven life, legislated justice, and sexual satisfaction. A lot of the preaching I hear today (and not only in a former stadium in Houston) is good advice; sentimental, worldly wisdom substituted for gospel foolishness; helpful hints for homemakers; tips for the anxious upwardly mobile; common sense widely available without having to get dressed and come to church to hear it. At least Rotary serves lunch.
In the temptations of Jesus, it was the devil who proffered common sense. Sanctimonious advice, even well meaning, is a bore. Most commonsense sermons — platitudes and principles foisted upon the congregation as if the preacher were an expert on life — are offered in the attempt to help us retain control over our lives by using common sense to keep a living God at bay. Preachers ought to remember the audience’s elation when Hamlet’s uncle — tedious, bloated-with—advice Polonius — finally gets a knife to the gut.
Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pg 101.


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Preaching That Offers Aspirin When You Need Chemotherapy (via Will Willimon)

I hope if you hear a sermon tomorrow it does not offer counsel about therapeutic change, but an invitation to spiritual reanimation.
From Accidental Preacher by Will Willimon.

We mainline, non evangelical, noninvasive preachers pat a congregation on the head as we murmur, “There, there, God loves you as you are. Promise me you won’t change a thing.” Billy [Graham, who Willimon invited to preach at the Duke Chapel] consistently preached the gospel of the second chance. Those in desperate need of a second or third chance require more than “progressive” sermons – Jesus just hanging out with people as they re, bourgeois conformity with a spiritual tint, offering a bit of a spiritual nudge. Buttoned-down mainline Christianity offers aspirin for those in need of massive chemotherapy.
Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pg 101.


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The Word That Rocks Your World (via Will Willimon)

Will Willimon relates a lesson about Scripture that he attributes to learning from Karl Barth in his memoir, Accidental Preacher.
Sometimes preachers are tempted to figure out how to make texts relevant to the lives of hearers.
Scripture calls us to realise that our lives need transformation, not fine-tuning.
(You might think I’m cherry-picking all the best bits of this book, but I think all the rest is just as good as the excerpts I’ve been posting. I’m enjoying every page.)

Barth taught me that when interpreting an odd biblical text, mind the gap between you and God. The question to put to a passage of Scripture is not the modern, self-important, “How is this relevant to my life?” or, “How can I make this text make sense?” The proper question, said Barth, is, “How is God calling me to change? What would I have to relinquish , for this text to make sense?”
Scripture’s sly intent is not agreement but conversion. Something is gained, yes, but much can be lost as well. After a service, an. attendee says, “You preachers never talk about anything that’s related to my world.”
I try to find a nice way to say, “Idiot! Scripture doesn’t want to ‘relate to your world.’ Scripture wants to rock your world.”
Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pg 95-96.


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The Preacher’s One Sermon (via Darryl Dash)

Darryl Dash interacts with Eugene Peterson and muses on an observation that preachers have a signature theme in their preaching, basically that they really preach one sermon, whatever the text.
Sometimes it takes preachers a while to find what their signature message is, but usually they find it. Or it finds them.
I recognise the heart of the idea in my preaching.

In his memoir Preacher, Eugene Peterson recounts a conversation with his son.
“Dad, novelists only write one book. They find their voice, their book, and write it over and over. William Faulkner wrote one book. Charles Dickens wrote one book. Anne Tyler wrote one book. Ernest Hemingway wrote one book. Willa Cather wrote one book.”
A few days later, he said, “Remember what I said about novelists only writing one book? You only preach one sermon.”
Read the rest of the post here.


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A Preaching Audit Of The Presbyterian Church Of Victoria by David Cook

This is a fascinating exercise.
David Cook – preacher and teacher of preachers with decades of experience audits the preaching of the denomination whose preaching conference he’s hosting.
From Cook:

In conducting the audit I listened online to 40 preachers, with at least one from each of the 13 Presbyteries in the state. The preachers included students for the ministry, ministers and lecturers. Age-wise, about one-third were in their 20’s and 30’s; another one-third in their 40’s and 50’s and the final one-third over 60. I tried to listen to the sermons as close to the first Sunday in November as I could.

Read his observations and conclusions at AP Online.


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Remembrancing Through Words – The Work Of Preaching (via Jeffrey Arthurs)

The use of language in preaching does more than convey information, it helps bring to heard and mind the emotions that the information should evoke.
The words, images, and stories used should help disciples of Jesus resonate with their memories of past experiences of God’s grace in their lives.

Remembrancers stir the affections not with actual objects such as oxen and sheep, but with words. We mobilize language and send it into battle against the devil who schemes to make Christians drift from the faith. Vivid language rouses slumbering knowledge, values, and feelings, so that people are re-membered to the great truths of the faith. A bland recitation of truth will be met with a shrug and a yawn, so the old, old story must become “present” once again.

Jeffrey D Arthurs, Preaching As Reminding, IVP, 2017, pg 66.


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The Common Problem Of The Children Of Both Covenants (via Jeffrey Arthurs)

A helpful observation that provides and insight when approaching Old Testament texts in order to teach them to disciples of Jesus.

The children of the covenants, both old and new, tend to forget.

Jeffrey D Arthurs, Preaching As Reminding, IVP, 2017, pg 30.

They’re good questions to ask of the text: “What were the people forgetting about God and his covenant love”” or “What were the people remembering about God and his covenant love?” which leads us to ask “What does the text remind us about God and his covenant love that we forget?” and “What does this text want us to remember about God and his covenant love?”
The same questions can particularly be asked of the didactic texts of the New Testament, though it is helpful in all situations.