The King is Coming

Before and After

Recently a member of our congregation was sharing with me how she was having a difficult time getting property insurance for a piece of property because the insurance company considered the home vacant. A vacant home is more likely to be vandalized. This December at St. Paul we celebrate the coming of Christ to be our Savior. We are not an abandoned people, defined by neglect. God has not forgotten us in our corruption and sin. He has come in the flesh and dwelled among us.

God saw that death and division were gaining an ever-firmer grip on humanity. Without the intervention of God in our world, the human race was in the process of destruction. We had been created in the image of God. God made us, and we were to be the reflection of the Word of God into this world. The ability of us to reflect the image of God in this world was seriously tarnished by sin. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, the work of God in this world was being undone. Our own reason or strength was not going to stop the unraveling of the work of God in this world. The marvel of God’s love is found in how He brings His Word into a world that is perishing.

Death is all around us, and it was for this purpose that the Word of God has come to work in the world. The Word of God entered our world because God saw that we could not advance ourselves towards life or strength. Jesus saw that the corruption of sin held us tight. He saw how the surpassing wickedness of our sin held us to death. The wonder of the heavenly Father’s creation was coming to nothing in death.

Our story, which was supposed to be the story of God’s love in the world, was corrupted by sin towards death. So the Word of God, moved by compassion for us, took on our flesh. The Word of God came into our corruption and death. He surrendered His body to our weakness and struggle. The Word of God came into our story so that He could write our story. We are not afraid of the unraveling of the world or the bondage to sin or death. Written in our story is the promise of our salvation in Christ Jesus.

In our sin we were unraveling the work of God, but the Word of God has come in the flesh to write again the story of God’s love. We are not drifting in a barren land that has become overtaken by darkness. God’s love has come in the flesh in Jesus Christ. In Christ Jesus we have the promise that the Word of God is at work in the world. We are not drifting in a world of neglect.

St. Athanasius wrote in the fourth century about the powerful glory of God coming to dwell in our flesh. One of the images he used to rejoice in the coming of the Word of God is the image of a king that comes to dwell in a city that had long been neglected through the carelessness of the inhabitants. The city had been so weakened by decay that robbers easily attacked it. The king comes to the city and saves it from destruction, having higher regard for his own honor than the people’s neglect. Imagine that when a king enters a city and dwells in one of its houses that the whole city is honored because of his dwelling in that single house.

The whole city is honored and its dignity is restored because of the dwelling of the king in their midst. The enemies and the robbers no longer are able molest the city. The people live with the joy of the honor of the king instead of the despair of their shame. We rejoice that the King of kings has come into our flesh. Jesus has come and dwelt among us. Jesus foiled the work of the devil and we are no longer unraveling in our despair.

This Christmas we celebrate the King of kings has come to dwell among us. Jesus came wholly for us, so that we could be holy for him. The dignity of heaven was poured into our poor and neglected world, and we have found the wonder of God’s plans again written upon our hearts.

Preaching as the Proclaimed Word–Day 3

Today in the morning we talked about MLK Jr. and the famous speech, “I Have a Dream.” We prepared for this discussion by reading Richard Lischer’s outstanding book, The Preacher King.

The use of set pieces that are repeated by the preacher is present in the African-American preaching context and I think it could be effective in my own situation. King would develop a piece of a sermon, an illustration, a movement, or a play of words and insert those set pieces in his preaching throughout his ministry. The people listening to him preach would hear the beginning of one of those pieces and they would know how it would finish. There was a shared community built by knowing the story together. Because he was a great orator these pieces did not become stale.

My PhotoWe also watched an outstanding video presentation by Todd Farley on movement by the preacher. He is a trained mime and is also a pastor. His use of space is purposeful and encourages the preacher to make every motion have a meaning that aids the listener. The video was from a DVD that is included with the book Performance in Preaching.

In the afternoon we had opportunity to share our recitations of either the Gettysburg Address or a piece of Scripture of equal length. I chose the Gettysburg Address and found it difficult to synchronize both the memorization of the passage and the stage blocking. I needed prompting on one line and I found that my hands expressed my nervousness and my gaze revealed that I wanted to look anywhere but at the people in front of me. Clay Schmit suggested that if I don’t want to look at the people in front of me I should make my gaze appear purposeful, as if I meant to look to the battlefield.