Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Preaching Grace.

I grew up in the church. I can remember attending services since I was four. Heard countless sermons from countless individuals. Precious few of them preached about grace.

Why is grace always avoided in sermons? The pious talkers and holiness men have seen presumptuous Christians and used this as an excuse to despise grace in their sermons and preach wrath. The liberal floosy-woosy preachers like to think that they talk about God's love but always resort in the end to instructions in moral development. The Emerging Church has its spiritual disciplines, the Mennonites have their Sermon on the Mount and the Reformed have their endless and wretched "tests" to see whether you are truly in the faith. No one talks about grace. And if it is mentioned at all, it is usually as an embaressing afterthought to a lesson on how to make yourself more pleasing to God, or even as a rebuke so that you can go home feeling awful about having not responded adequately to God's grace. Sometimes an impatient grace is taught, as if God has unmerited favor but is really high strung and uptight about you using it properly to fulfill His Law.

The sense I mostly get with preachers is that they think the Law of God is more important than the Gospel. And of course the fruit of this is endless bad behavior in the congregation, because what the preacher doesn't realize is that the Law of God has no power to change a person. Only grace can do this. In the end they perpetrate a continuous cycle of preaching more Law and less grace (thinking this will abolish sin) as the congregation grows colder and colder and colder. Finally there is no joy left in the audience but a cold and dishonest piety on the outside and a flaming and wretched sinful disposition on the inside.

The Letter kills.

The Law brings wrath.


Jim said...

yes, thank god when john the baptist came preaching (luke 3) he coddled the people and warmly embraced them, reminding them that they were a ok with god and god was a ok with them. obviously editors have changed what he really said to the curt and unkind 'you brood of vipers'. instead surely he must have said 'god's grace is with you all and it doesn't matter what you do- it only matters what you 'believe' and how that makes you 'feel'....

[not to mention all the warmth and good feelings the prophets leave us with and jesus' own cleansing of the temple and denunciation of sin. good thing that stuff never happened!]

Emerson Fast said...

"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached..." (Lk 16:16)

Emerson Fast said...

And don't get me wrong Jim, sin should be thoroughly denounced from the pulpit. I'm only locating the power to do so in a different realm (here being grace). After all, the power of sin is the Law, and it was not Christ's proper work to teach Law.

This is something we Mennonites cannot fathom.