Preaching Faith Forthrightly

One criterion of a good sermon is movement beyond belief that can be taken for granted, into territory that and go to where it feels unsafe to the preacher, who has to address an issue personally, without being sure how it will come out. Maybe it won’t come out at all this time, and will have to be left in suspense for weeks, or forever. A preacher needs to count on the hearers’ willingness to engage in such grappling when operating in this mode of risk. Hopefully, the risk of the thing communicates as excitement; the hearers are drawn in by the spectacle of someone skating close to the edge.

A minimally honest preacher will soon be forced to address the unfairness of life. Bad things happen to good people. Bullies make headway when gentle people don’t. These facts fly in the teeth of the civic virtue of optimism, the “positive outlook” which is often taken as the litmus test of Christian faith.

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