Preachers Dare is a book that grew out of the Beecher Lectures I was scheduled to give this fall at Yale Divinity School. Drawing on my decades of preaching thousands of sermons, it’s a theology of preaching that begins at Barth’s maxim Deus Dixit, God speaks. For the next couple weeks, I’ll be running a series of excerpts selected by my minion Carsten Bryant, a recent Duke Divinity grad and Methodist preacher. Here’s the second on the wildness of revelation:
Christ’s identity makes preaching in his name dangerous in its consequences and cosmic in its intentions:
Jesus comes to his people in the middle of our storms, yet his saving work is not limited to us. To be the church is to deal with our pain and tragedy but at the same time to be pushed to respond to someone else’s hurt beyond the bounds of the church. Jesus calls us to venture forth with him into the storm, and then he entrusts to us a mission that doesn’t end in the boat. The boat (navis, ancient symbol for the church, insignia of Duke Divinity School) is not Jesus’s sole concern.
Much of systematic theology is an attempt to systematically stabilize, to housebreak and bind this free and living God. We can’t, because Christianity is a revealed religion. Dealings between us and God are up to God. If you have a taste for adventure, are willing to be out of control of the communication, it’s a great way to make a living, watching Jesus elude the church’s smothering clutch and go his own way.
When we preach Christ, we refute Feuerbach’s charge that when Christians say “God,” we are projecting our pietistic feelings about God, naming our dreams and feelings “God.” Really, Feuerbach, if we were merely casting our desires out into the cosmos and calling the echo “God,” would we have come up with Jesus as Son of God? Would we have devised poor old dilapidated church as Christ’s presence in the world? We are capable of projecting gods easier to get along with than the Trinity, I assure you. Revelation is an event whereby God lifts the veil and enables us to discern and then to speak about God.
Interested? I recorded this promotional video to introduce what I’m up to in Preachers Dare: