10 June 2012
The other day I was blessed to have a chat with Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller, who was preparing to head up to Canada to present to the St. John Chrysostom Preacher's Retreat. I was totally intrigued by his thoughts on preaching and its relation to conscience. He shared so many profound things in such a short time that I'm still digesting them. First, here's a challenge for you: use an electronic version of the Confessions and read what they say about conscience (AFTER you do the same in the Scriptures!). Second, think about the effects of the fall on the conscience and the fact that a human being now may feel guilt or shame over something that he ought not; or the fact that a human being now may not feel guilt or shame over something that he ought; and finally the fact that a human being may in fact read a situation rightly in the conscience. Third, think of the task of preaching in relation to the conscience: by the gift of the Ten Commandments we have a tool from God that can correct a conscience that is crushed under a burden it ought not be - for they inform us what is sin and what is not; likewise, when our conscience is broken and not warning us about sin, the Ten Commandments can reinforce and bring back to the conscience the knowledge of what actually is sin that we've pretending is not. But the best of all is how the Gospel enables a good conscience (check those Confessional references again!), and how this is first and foremost because it rests our entire righteousness in the flawless righteousness of the Son of God. Here Pr. Wolfmueller pointed to the parallel uses of "Paraclete" for the Divine Persons of the Son and the Spirit. As the Son lives to intercede for us and is our advocate before the Father (1 John 2), ever pleading His own all-sufficient propitiation, so the Holy Spirit is the advocate within, in the conscience, also pointing ceaselessly to that perfect righteousness of the Son of God and proclaiming it as our very own. There is no human righteousness that WE could come up with that would give us a good conscience in the light of the Law of God's relentless demand for absolute purity and perfection ("as Your Father in heaven is perfect!"), but the Spirit witnesses within our spirit that we are sons of God and if sons then heirs, heirs of God and coheirs with Christ. The Spirit is given to us so that we may know the things freely given to us by God. Also note the role of the conscience with Baptism in 1 Peter 3. Still so much to think over, but is that not a fascinating area? You know, it's been a long, long time since I sat in a seminary homiletics class, but I do not recall the area of conscience ever even being addressed, yet it is surely ought be. Through preaching the conscience is informed and corrected and strengthened. And the result is that we are kept humble in repentance and made firm in faith. More later as I continue ruminating on the topic. Any of you have further thoughts?
Posted by William Weedon at 2:32 PM