Friday, April 25, 2008

Sermon and the Past Week

I don't usually post here about my sermon's in progress. My friend the AngloBaptist often does, and since I am having a little bit of difficulty getting a handle on a sermon I think I will post some of my thoughts here for y'all to read and comment on if you want.

These are the texts for this Sunday:
New Testament: Acts 17:22-31
Psalm: Psalm 66:8-20
Epistle: 1 Peter 3:13-22
New Testament: John 14:15-21

These are an interesting collection of texts, all with their own nuances and difficulties. However, I can't escape that they all in one way or another deal with truth and do so in away that probably makes most of my congregation uncomfortable and at one time would have made me uncomfortable. Paul in Athens appeals to us on the level that Paul is culturally and religiously sensitive and recognizes that people can happen upon truth but not necessarily the whole truth. But what we often overlook is that there is an implicit critique of the "altar to the unknown god" and that is that Paul critiques the Athenians at the same time as he praises them. The joke is kind of on the Athenians here by honoring the unknown god they proclaim their ignorance and their preference of ignorance to wisdom when the reject Paul's proclamation of Christ as the one who makes known the unknown God through the Resurrection. Paul maybe generous here and possibly tolerant but his point is that they are in ignorance even in their religiousity and even though some of their poets may have happened upon a part of the truth but if they are to be fully in the truth, or rather what fulfills these partial truths is Jesus Christ. As such they must let go of their ignorance for the revelation that comes in Jesus Christ. God is at work in the culture but that work is fulfilled only if people accept the proclamation of the Gospel and are willing to in light of Christ allow what they though to be true to be transformed by Christ.
In essence this is what Jesus is saying to his disciples as just prior to his arrest in John's Gospel. but we see that this truth is really relational. One then isn't so much in possession of the truth but possessed or in relationship to the truth by virtue of knowing Christ. However, this truth since it is in relation is centered on love: love of Christ, love of God, love of the Father, and love of neighbor. Love leads to truth, Truth leads to love. 1 Peter in its wandering rabbit trail sort of way presents us with the truth of suffering, of its meaning in relation to Christ's suffering and in being able to give an answer or defense, and that we are to treat the interaction of apology gently and with fear (NRSV translates reverence). What has struck me is that we are to treat the interaction and the one to whom we speak as holy, that is we are to see ourselves as priests handling holy objects.

This lead me to wonder about the phrase "Generous Orthodoxy" which was popularized by Brian McLaren, but originates with Hans Frei and used by Stanley Grenz. But I think I would want to take it away from either rapprochement of two movements or propaganda for another. In a sense the phrase only makes sense if orthodoxy is always already generous. Which also makes me leery of using the term. If truth and orthodoxy are presented for us in these texts (and I think they are) then generosity is part of orthodoxy, and it does not need the qualifier "generous". There is no other type of orthodoxy. The truth is always already full of love if it is truth. thus if one speaks truth without love one has already spoken falsehood.

Well that is where I am at for now. Somehow I need to get these and many more thoughts into a focused outline. I have tried to simply focus on only one of these texts and I keep finding that as I spend time in one I am propeled to the other two. Of course it is easier to be focused when dealing with only one Scripture text at a time but sometimes one has to preach the interaction of texts, or so I believe.