The Chair and the Desk, 9/21/15

From the chair:

27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

[5 verses later]

36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

-Mark 14

I’m so much like Peter. I don’t do what I should do and I do what I should not do–but I still keep saying “I’ve got this.” Jesus isn’t surprised by Peter; he doesn’t coddle him, but he’s not harsh with him. He knows that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus doesn’t say, “Yes, Peter, you’ve got this!” Jesus doesn’t say, “Whatever, Peter, you’re never going to get this.” He says, to all of us who are willing and weak, who know we’re inadequate but want to become less inadequate: Watch and pray! Or have we forgotten the irreplaceable habit of prayer?

From the desk:

preaching must not be confused with teaching. This is not to say that a sermon cannot instruct and stimulate the thinking of the hearers; indeed it should and, with all the boring sermons one is constrained to hear, it is to be hoped that some will be more interesting. But all that is instructive and interesting in the sermon is justified only when the sermon points up the questions which are inherent in this or that are of life, and what answers they receive in the light of the Word of God.

[1 page later]

It is true that the content of preaching may also be formulated in dogmatic language. For example, the fact that preaching says to man that he needs God’s forgiveness can be brought to expression in the doctrine of original sin. But the believing acceptance of such preaching is expressed only in the confession ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’ and not in agreeing with any doctrine of original sin.”

-Rudolf Bultmann, “Preaching: Genuine and Secularized” in Religion and Culture, pp.238 & 239.

Throughout the afternoon I thought, “there will be no ‘from the desk’ today,” because I disagree with Bultmann on so many key points–who Jesus is first and foremost. However, we do agree on this distinction between teaching and preaching. In fact, I heard a sermon yesterday that was too much teaching with no preaching purpose, but in the car I said to Annie, “I really can’t rag on that sermon too much, because I’ve preached it before.” We’re all learning–my hope is that I and the preachers around me are learning to stop marching around God with our words and to make way for his Word to address each of us.

“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

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