I… I just got here. To the United Methodist Church, I mean. I didn’t survive the time the conservatives split to support slavery while the progressives supported abolition. I didn’t survive the battles against women ordination when conservatives threatened women pastors, ridiculed them, and left the UMC because of it. I didn’t survive the rounds of talk about divorced and remarried clergy and how we should affirm a call rather than a mistake.
My sermon is based on Genesis 12.1-4. It is about the move from one place to another, from fear to faith. It is essentially a “why the UMC” sermon. The first sermon was for inspiration and authority of Scripture but against inerrancy, infallibility, and being locked into a “bible only” or a “bible must” mentality. The second was about Grace. So, it was a build up, a lead in series.
The Immaculate Conception (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)
I used the REB, clutched my rosary tightly, and preached about prevenient grace this morning. Friday, I preached of inspiration and Tradition while on Saturday, I preached about Grace and how it is out of proportion to sin. All while holding my rosary, speaking of Wesley, and hoping no one would run me out of town. This morning, as I set through the hymns and such, I prayed the rosary’s prayer, prayed to St. Mark and the three St. Johns (the Evangelist, the Damascene, and the Cross) and made mention to Brother John.
I’ll post the sermons this week and two videos, I believe.
Saint Ambrose as a Doctor of the Church. Detail from the manneristic frescos by Carlo Urbino on the ceiling of the altar chapel in the Cappella di sant’Aquilino in the Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore in Milan, Italy. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, May 18 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Abraham represents the mind. In fact Abraham signifies passage. Therefore, in order that the mind, which in Adam had allowed itself to run to pleasure and to bodily attractions, should turn toward the ideal form of virtue, a wise man has been proposed to us as an example to imitate. Actually Abraham in Hebrew signifies “father,” in the sense that the mind, with the authority, the judgment and the solicitude of a father, governs the entire person. This mind then was in Haran, that is, in caverns, subject to the different passions. For this reason it is told, “Go from your country,” that is, from your body. From this land went forth the one whose homeland is in the heavens. ON ABRAHAM 2.1–2. 1
I am preaching on Genesis 12.1–4 next Sunday, so I am studying the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Here, Ambrose presents a highly allegorized version of Abraham. A century after him, Caesarius of Arles would carry this vision on. It is interesting to see Ambrose give Abraham almost a philosophical (Platonic?) flare. Note the use of “caverns” as the place to leave.
Mark Sheridan, ed., Genesis 12–50 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 2. ↩
I will be preaching/ lecturing/ teaching/ speaking/ talking/ chatting/ jish-joshing at a local UMC church in mid-March. The topic will be based roughly on moving from fear (i.e., fundamentalism) to faith (i.e., reasonable Christianity). In preparing for my sermon series, 3 nights, I decided immediately to stick to the lectionary. I will use the Revised Common Lectionary covering two weeks (the second week begins on Sunday).
I want to address several issues during the series. I will cover the marks of fundamentalism and why they are dangerous. They are essentially:
I will not cover premillennialism because it is too tricky of a situation to tackle and it is a topic of doctrine, thus the pastor should handle it. The others I will easily cover and in doing so, hope to show why Christians need the institutional church rather than this idea of “me and Jesus.”
Thus far, I have selected the follow texts:
Matthew 4.1-11 – Bread Alone, you say? Here, I will talk about the temptation in sola scriptura and how it separates us from the Great Tradition.
Romans 5.12-19, with a focus on 5.15 specifically. I will talk about the extremes in American Christianity. The sinners and the sinless and how that which is in the middle is Grace. Fundamentalism is hyper-focused on sin and sees it everywhere. Is that healthy? Are we to live in fear? If sin is everywhere, then Christ is pointless. (Combine the extremes, and you will have the true center – Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel)
Genesis 12.1-4 – I aim to speak about why the Church is losing members and “why the United Methodist Church.”
One of the issues I am struggling with is how to connect and yet to make sure they are standalone.
As a side note – it has been a very long time since I posted to the category of Sermon Notes; however, as I am preaching next week, I guess I will. This week, I want to focus on a few things. First, is this book.
I wanted to take a class on preaching for two reasons. First, I figured I could take it here – face to face. Second, I figured it would help me later in life if I hit the lecture circuit. And also didn’t think I would have to preach. I don’t know why I thought that, but I did. Yes, I took a class on preaching with the hopes that I would not have to preach. This is not the strangest expectation I’ve had, but it comes pretty close.
Fred B. Craddock is a name widely known amongst preachers; his story-telling technique has inspired countless ministers to embrace what the basic nature of the person – the narrative. His book is no less than that – a story about preaching from a preacher who tells stories. As my instructor pointed out, there not one footnote. Perhaps that is the way it should be. A book on preaching that keeps it plain and simple, but holds a great depth behind the words. No sourcing of evidence or outside authority is needed — Craddock is not arguing one way or the other, but speaking directly to the reader. If the reader is convinced, that conviction then becomes the argument Craddock never really had to make.
I must say, that reading this book, while a fresh air no doubt, was still somewhat odd. The ministry I am used too, preaching-wise, was one of spontaneity. As a lay minister, we never knew when we were going to be called upon to preach; therefore, we had to be “instant in season and out of season.” I would, between services on Sunday prepare a sermon outline. I had notes, verses, and some general idea of what I was going to say – rather, what direction I was going to go in. Everything else was left up to the Holy Ghost – not spirit, you dullard heretic papists, but Ghost. I remember one line in one of my sermons, proclaiming that I was blood bought and Holy Ghost taught. Amen. That actually got a lot of shouts and amens and a few others things. Look, I’m not saying I am not good right out of the gate. I am. I can pretty well deliver something, and do it well. They called me the red-headed Cajun preaching machine. But this, well, this is going to be different. This will be a somewhat – an allwhat if I can help it – prepared sermon. There is a reason, I figure, why Wesley, Calvin, Luther, and Barth are all remembered for their sermons and their theology. Because we can read it today. There are plenty of books of sermons by the great preachers of the past; not one of them went unprepared. And you know what? These prepared sermons still speak to us today. We still find inspiration in them in our daily walk. So, once I have convinced myself that a prepare sermon was in fact not heresy, I was able to write mine.
Several things struck me as pertinent about sermon preparation while reading this book. First, Craddock has devoted three sections to preparing the sermon. I’m not saying that this mimics the Trinity, but as one who looks for hidden structures in literary works, I can see Craddock’s insistence that the preaching life of a minister follow the Trinitarian model. Part I deals with an overview, the context, and basic theology of preaching. The second part deals with the message, the word of the preacher. (By the way, here he is very Barthian in his approach to Scripture and the Preacher.) This second part is about the ways which the preacher abides in the (W)ord, along with interpretation of the text, or the delivery of the (W)ord. Party three deals with the application of the sermon. It is shaped, stored, storied, formed, and finally delivered into application. So, very much a Trinitarian structure to preaching, or perhaps, at least to the book.