Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Preaching Christ...

Last year I had occasion to preach several times at the wonderful church that I serve.  One day I met in Boston with a friend who is a semi-retired Episcopal Priest. We were talking about sermon writing styles and he told me that his was to study the scripture readings, and when struck by a particular passage, contemplate how Jesus might preach it.  I replied that my challenge and process was almost the opposite.  I started by thinking about the teaching and life of Jesus, searched for readings outside the Bible that illustrated the same point, and then looked for a way to present it without mentioning him!  I was, of course, exaggerating, but "Preaching Christ" in the pluralistic framework that is Unitarianism (?) has always been (and must be) an issue.  Here are wise words from William Ellery Channing on the subject.  The sermon was given in 1815 at the Ordination of another favorite of mine, John Emery Abbot.

"Preaching Christ"

Colossians 1:28  " Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus."

 "What are we to understand by "preaching Christ"? This subject is the more interesting and important, because, I fear, it has often been misunderstood. Many persons imagine, that Christ is never preached, unless his name is continually repeated and his character continually kept in view. This is an error, and should be exposed. Preaching Christ, then, does not consist in making Christ perpetually the subject of discourse, but in inculcating, on his authority, the religion which he taught. Jesus came to be the light and teacher of the world ; and in this sublime and benevolent character he unfolded many truths relating to the Universal Father, to his own character, to the condition, duties, and prospects of mankind, to the perfection and true happiness of the human soul, to a future state of retribution, to the terms of forgiveness, to the means of virtue, and of everlasting life. Now whenever we teach, on the authority of Jesus, any doctrine or precept included in this extensive system, we " preach Christ." When, for instance, we inculcate on his authority the duties of forgiving enemies, of denying ourselves, of hungering after righteousness, we "preach Christ" as truly as when we describe his passion on the cross, or the purpose and the importance of his sufferings."


Dave said...

I agree but avoiding the name of Jesus at call costs seems just as problematic, no?

boston unitarian said...

Hi Dave,
Many thanks for writing. I very much agree and I will never be accused of avoiding the name of Jesus! I do like the idea that Jesus is best preached by preaching his "religion." Thanks again and
blessings, BU