Robert Jenson on the preacher’s task

“It must be our apologetic and liturgical and homiletical task to reclaim such abstractions as ‘love’ and ‘peace’ and ‘empowerment’ and so forth to their proper meaning as mere slogans for the concrete person of the risen Christ. A great deal of our preaching and teaching is exactly backwards. So, for example. The preacher will say that what a text from one of the Gospels, about a miracle or parable, ‘is really about is acceptance of people in all their diversity.’ A true sermon would go just the other way: ‘What our talk of acceptance and diversity etc. is really trying to get at is Jesus.’

“And there is an apologetic possibility here also. It is easy to show that the roster of slogans that make up abstracted Christianity is incoherent except as slogans about this person, this risen crucified first-century Palestinian Jew. Can peace and justice really kiss each other? All experience says not; but Christians add, except as characterizations of what this man did and suffered and does.”

Robert Jenson, “What is a Post Christian?” The Strange New World of the Gospel: Re-evangelizing in the Postmodern World, Eds. Carl Braaten and Robert Jenson. (Eerdmans, 2002), 31.

P.S from R. Jenson, “How the World Lost Its Story,” First Things (Oct 1993)

First and most obviously, preaching and teaching and hymns and prayers and processions and sacramental texts must no longer be shy about describing just what the gospel promises, what the Lord has in store. Will the city’s streets be paved with gold? Modernity’s preaching and teaching—and even its hymnody and sacramental texts—hastened to say, “Well, no, not really.” And having said that, it had no more to say. In modern Christianity’s discourse, the gospel’s eschatology died the death of a few quick qualifications. 

The truly necessary qualification is not that the City’s streets will not be paved with real gold, but that gold as we know it is not real gold, such as the City will be paved with. What is the matter with gold anyway? Will goldsmiths who gain the Kingdom have nothing to do there? To stay with this one little piece of the vision, our discourse must learn again to revel in the beauty and flexibility and integrity of gold, of the City’s true gold, and to say exactly why the world the risen Jesus will make must of course be golden, must be and will be beautiful and flexible and integral as is no earthly city. And so on and on.

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