Thursday, November 18, 2010

Preacher, did they meet God?

Robert Rayburn's lecture on Preaching as Mystical Event introduced me to James S. Stewart's book on preaching 'Heralds of God' (1946).

 Darrell Johnson, author of Experiencing the Trinity, says of this book "Stewart brings us back to the incomparable Christ and into the drumbeat of the apostolic preaching. The reprinting of this classic will fan the flames of preaching in our time into white-hot joy!"

I've not finished it yet but this is striking from the first chapter:
Your task is not to send people away from church saying, 'That was a lovely sermon' or 'What an eloquent appeal!' The one question is 'Did they, or did they not, meet God today?' There will always be some who have no desire for that, some who rather than being confronted with the living Christ would actually prefer what G.K. Chesterton described as 'one solid and polished cateract of platitudes flowing for ever and ever.' But when Peter finished his first great sermon in Jerusalem, reported in the Book of Acts, I do not read that 'when they heard him they were intruiged by his eloquence' or 'politely interested in his literary allusions' or 'critical of his logic and his accent' or 'bored and impassive and contemptuous'; what I do read is 'when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart' (p31)
We might ask, how would we know if we met God in preaching? Stewart points to the response at Pentecost and we might also look to Jesus in John 10 who tells us his sheep recognise his voice. If we meet God, hear his voice, we know if it's happened. And when it does it'll be something more than just hearing words spoken from a pulpit, though it may not be less than that.

Stewart also tells of Robert Wodrow hearing preaching saying:
'that man showed me the majesty of God... the loveliness of Christ... and showed me my whole heart' (p72-73).
Sounds like preaching to me. Something to aspire to, by the grace of God and the working of the Spirit. Do I come to the gathering of the church expecting that kind of encounter with God? And when it's my turn to preach do I prepare and pray and preach with the expectation that God will speak, that the preaching of the word of God will be the word of God to his people?

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