07 February 2013

Thy Kingdom Come

It arrived on my desk weeks ago and I've only begun to plumb its depths. Thy Kingdom Come: Lent and Easter Sermons is written by Fr. David Petersen, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Almost no one I know of has the ability that Fr. Petersen has to simply speak God's truth to us - both in its devastating exposure of the darkest secrets of our hearts and in its intense comfort to the troubled conscience. You can tell the man likes and reads poetry. You can tell the man likes, reads, and knows his Luther. Some teasing tastes:

On the Saturday before Palm Sunday:

He is lifted up from the earth, of course, on Good Friday. He becomes not just sin and a curse for our sake, but also a worm. He is a worm, a snake, a dragon and no man. His effigy was lifted up in the desert, and the people who looked upon it were saved. Now He who knew no sin, who obeyed His Father in all ways, who loves His neighbor as Himself without caveat or limit, is lifted up from the earth, away from creation, away from the goodness of God, and forsaken, despised, stricken, smitten, and afflicted. Would you see Jesus, O Greek? See Him there. There is your Lord. There is love. There is hope. There, on the cross, is God and salvation. There is sadness in this, to be sure. But there is also Easter. The grain of wheat falls to the earth and is buried, but it does not stay there. It rises and bears fruit, much fruit. The sacrifice is terrible but not outside of time. It comes to an end. It is finished, and Jesus rises from the dead. May God give us the strength and courage not to look away this week but to rejoice in the vision of that which saved us. p. 126.

On Maundy Thursday:

We belong to God. We bear His watery name. We eat at His table. We are His people and more. We are not merely guests, sojourners in His house for but an hour, but we are members of the royal family raised up from stones. We are not Gentile dogs hoping for crumbs, worshipping what we do not know. We, by grace, are the Lord's own beloved and immaculate bride. We belong to God. We are baptized. We eat at His table. We are gathered under the protecting shadow of the cross. p. 140

On Jubilate:

They will fail Him; He will not fail them. They will be unfaithful and abandon Him, but He will return for them in perfect love and faithfulness, without anger, after He rises from the dead. This is why the confirmands qualify their pledges with "by the grace of God." By grace, they intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord's Supper faithfully. That is, they intend to come to church every single week to hear the preaching and for the Holy Communion.... They have this intention by grace. They will fufill this intention by grace or not at all. If and when they fail, they will repent and throw themselves again upon Christ's mercy because He will not fail them.  p. 173

Oh, so much more. I'm half tempted to type out one entire sermon because the snippets fail to give the full effect, but here's a better idea:  YOU go and purchase a copy for yourself. You can order one here. It's a great daily devotion book for the 40 days and their Sundays and for the Sundays of Easter. And if you're a preacher yourself, nothing so improves preaching as reading a master of the craft, and Petersen is that, though he'd be too humble to admit to anything like that at all. It's still true.


Rev. Alan Kornacki, Jr. said...

I was blessed to participate in a wedding in which he was the preacher. The sermon he preached still resonates a year and a half later. He is, indeed, a master.

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

This kind of sermonic material makes for nice literary rhetoric, but I'm not convinced striving for rhetorical flourishes, ruffles and finery is the goal when preaching.

I'm rather have a clear, simple assertions of truth, without the kind of material that may very well appeal to, and be appropriate for a congregation of hearers that includes a large number of seminarians, seminary faculty and staff.

If seminarians think that they are going to be well received in the pulpit by imitating this kind of sermon, intended for an unusually highly sophisticated theological audience, they are in for a very rude awakening.

Give me the straightforward proclamation of a Martin Luther any day of the week and ... several times on Sunday, please.

Something to think on?

Just my .02, and as always, your mileage may vary.

Rev. Alan Kornacki, Jr. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rev. Alan Kornacki, Jr. said...

Sorry about that, Will. Didn't mean to flame on your blog.

William Weedon said...

Paul, get the book and read it. It just may change your mind. Seriously. Good stuff!

Unknown said...

Geez, McCain! I guess the sermons of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great with all their rhetorical turns of phrase would automatically be verboten for congregational preaching. And I don't think the audience of their day was any more or less educated than ours.

Rhetoric, especially classical rhetoric, does have a place even in the modern sermon. The sermon should not just relegated to A is A and B is B. WHy not just get rid of hymns then? The truth can be better if not best communicated without all those notes in the way. If music is the handmaid of theology, then rhetoric is the handmaid of the sermon. Just because people today cannot understand or refuse to try to understand does not mean throwing it out. Or should everything just be dumbed down?