There are some obvious ways in which the idea of connecting might relate to preaching. We could think about connecting the world of the Bible with the world of today’s listeners. Or we could think about connecting God’s will with our lives – sort of a “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” idea. We could even move things down to a more practical level and think about connecting preacher with listeners, or biblical truths with relevant applications. But in this post I am not doing any of these.
In preaching we get to make connections that are theologically critical, but typically remain separated in the minds of most believers. How about these three to get us started:
1. Connect the cross of Christ with the life of Christ. Too easily we can think of Jesus’ life and ministry as being somehow distinct from the cross. It is as if the cross was a necessary but difficult diversion from what he was previously doing in his healing and teaching ministry. So, we can think of Jesus as a great example and leader in his ministry, but as a victim of malevolent human agency on the cross. Actually, the character that is constantly showing in his encounters with hurting people is the character that is presented in stark relief in the hours of extreme hurt on the cross.
The cross is not a distasteful interruption to his ministry of revealing God’s character to us – it is actually the moment of greatest clarity. It is that humble Jesus, that selfless Jesus, that giving Jesus that is constantly doing his revelatory work. That is true beside the Sea of Galilee, as it is true beside the road in his crucifixion. As a preacher we get to reconnect that which should never have become separated – the life of Christ from the death of Christ.
2. Connect the life of Christ then with the ministry of Christ now. In church world we have done a good job of helping people to know about Jesus’ three years of ministry two millennia ago, but a lousy job of helping people to know that that same Jesus is praying for them today. I was really struck by Dane Ortlund’s book, Gentle and Lowly. That book really builds the readers confidence that the Jesus who was so approachable, so humble, so kind, so gracious, so present with both sinners and sufferers in the stories we know so well from the Gospels is the same Jesus that we sinners and sufferers living our stories today can still approach.
A lot of Christians have a massive disconnect between the Jesus they read about in the Gospels, and the saviour they are trusting with their lives today. Jesus was so stirred by the battered fallen creatures of back then, but we assume he is impatient and frustrated with us today. As a preacher we get to reconnect that which should never have become separated – the Jesus of the Gospels from the Jesus of today.
3. Connect Christ with God. Hopefully this one is the most jarring of all. Theologically I hope that Christians know that Christ is truly God, just as the Father and the Holy Spirit are truly God. Also it should not be a stretch to hope that Christians know Jesus is the one who reveals the Father to us. And yet so many still seem to have a mental distinction between the demeanour and character of Jesus in the Gospels from what we know to be true of God the Father in heaven today. Too many gospel presentations have inadvertently reinforced the error – the angry judge in heaven is only appeased by the pleas and sacrifice of our kind advocate Jesus.
When we look at Jesus in the Gospels, or when we gaze at the cross and see the Son suffering there, we are seeing the heart of the Father revealed to us. I wonder how many Christian lives would be revolutionized if people actually dared to believe that the Father’s heart is as for them as Jesus’ heart was for the sinners and sufferers he encountered in the Gospels? As a preacher we get to reconnect that which should never have become separated – the Jesus of the Gospels from the Father he came to reveal to us.’
There are probably more theological truths that so easily become disconnected in our thinking. As preachers, let’s help people to put back together what should never have been separated at all.