Sunday, June 14, 2009

Preaching Through the Crises of Hope

On June 3 & 5, I posted about two of the three crises of human existence and the need for preaching to address them.  This idea comes from imageChristoph Schwöbel’s (pictured) introduction to Colin Gunton’s Theology Through Preaching: The Gospel and the Christian Life (Edinburgh; New York: T&T Clark, 2001).  The introduction is  entitled “The Preacher’s Art: Preaching Theologically.”  Schwöbel says, in part:

the proclamation of the gospel of Christ must always occur in the context of pastoral care. Indeed, preaching which remains true to the content of the gospel is a form of pastoral care….  Through preaching, the gospel is communicated to us personally, so that the personal relationship of preacher and listener is an indispensable part of the communication of the gospel, and one for which both preacher and listener are constitutive. (p. 9)

Earlier, we looked at the Crises of Faith and the Crises of Love.  Equally prominent in our world are the Crises of Hope.

The sad things that happen to us, the death of people dear to us, illness in people we care about and in ourselves, the failure of projects with which we identify, but also the sheer repetition of daily routines, they all can have the effect of wounding our ability to hope. We feel unable to look beyond our immediate horizon, and if we could, we would not want to for fear that we might only encounter further sadness. Hope is not a virtue we might or might not have, it is an essential element of our humanity. Dealing with hopelessness is, therefore, at the centre of all pastoral concern. (p. 12)

Preaching itself will not restore hope, but counters the “presumed ultimacy” of our hopelessness by “seeing it in the context of the story of God’s relationship with his creation.”

Preaching pastorally to those burdened by hopelessness, therefore, means communicating the gospel as the liberation from hoping only what is humanly possible. The restoration of hope begins where the grip of despair about exhausted human possibilities is loosened by directing our hearts to God who is not bound by what is humanly possible. This hope is not an empty hope, because it has Christ as its content. It is in the story of Christ that divine possibilities which lead beyond situations of human hopelessness are not only promised but actualised. Preaching pastorally, therefore, implies redirecting our attention from the hopelessness we experience to the story of Christ’s death and resurrection as the transformation from death to life, from hopelessness to a renewed hope. (p. 13)

Faith…Love…Hope.  Paul says that the greatest of these is love, but I also believe that we cannot ultimately be compete or satisfied as humans without resolving the continual crises of all three of these in our lives.

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