Saturday Short Thought: Luther, Law, Preaching and Popes

This week I’ve been writing about the power of our words as preachers.  Not only can we re-present the Scriptures as we explain and apply, but we can undo the Scriptures as we carelessly overqualify, say too much, or say that which is unhelpful.

They say driving a car is like having a 1.5 tonne bullet with the trigger under our right foot.  What, then, is preaching a sermon?

This week I read through The Freedom of a Christian by Luther.  Yesterday I started reading a book that has become an “I don’t want to put this down” kind of book.  I won’t tell you what it is yet, I’ll reveal it on the Books page once other commitments allow me time to finish it.  But here’s a taster on the this issue of the sermon:

Luther was astonished how many Christian theologies accepted the basic scheme of the law and its morality (opinio legis), but had nothing worthwhile to say about Christ. . . .

Luther is the Great Misunderstood. How could he become so contorted into the form of modern Protestantism? One might reasonably take recourse in Luther’s assumption that the devil was on the prowl ready to pounce on anyone preaching the gospel. The picture of freedom that developed by the nineteenth century has very little to do with Luther’s own theology. On the face of it, Luther’s proposal was not of “reform” nor was it modest, though it was excruciatingly simple: it was to replace the papacy with a sermon: “Christ’s merit is not acquired through our work of pennies, but through faith by grace, without any money and merit – not by the authority of the pope, but rather by preaching a sermon, that is, God’s Word.”

Down comes Christendom, with a word! Preaching is democratized, not in the sense of emerging from the people but of being available to them all equally – in an instant, rich and poor, male and female, circumcised and uncircumcised, German and Italian.  With this the pinnacle of power lay not in Rome or with kings, but at the point of the delivery of a sermon.

(pp3, 8, of ?)

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