"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"High-Church" Preaching?

“You have a high-church approach to preaching, which is fine, but we're more used to practical preaching.

This was what I was told after outlining my plan to preach that the story of Jacob and Esau was about gracious election in Christ. In this class on preaching, I was told that contrasting the merit-based love of Isaac to the gracious love of God was not wrong, just high minded. It was fine, but depended on the forum. It was a thing of higher thinking, more complex with abstract connections.

I wondered: is that true? Is being theological or Christocentric/Christotelic (preaching with the end biblical theme of Christ) “high-church”? The person knew I was Presbyterian, and so perhaps that is where the comment came from. Most Presbyterians, however, would be quite surprised to hear they were high-church, having descended from non-conformists that thought the Anglican church was too high church. Still, Presbyterianism seems high church compared to typical non-denominational/charismatic worship.

Still, I truly wondered if it was true. Could people other than the highly educated 'get' a theological sermon? Depending on the audience, did one need to keep it simple, give some pithy imperatives and walk the congregation through some super specific hypothetical applications and wrap up with a fun story?

If this is true, Protestantism is false. Theology makes up a good portion of the Scriptures - all of it in some sense, but a good portion in a proper sense. Are Paul's letters to be neglected in preaching? Are they to be translated into fun stories? Is Hebrews a book of shadows for the typical congregant? Protestantism believes in the intelligibility/perspicuity of Scripture. If it is not, we ought to be Gnostics or Catholics, but I repeat myself.

I preached my sermon on election, without ever even saying the word (we allow God to 'choose to love' even if we don't allow him to “elect”). It wasn't the best sermon in world. It wasn't my favorite of the ones I preached. It probably wasn't even the best delivered that day of three. But I was encouraged when one person caught me afterward and asked if I have opportunities to preach somewhere.

“Occasionally,” I replied.

“You should use that one, I needed it.”

Maybe doctrine and the Gospel are practical. Even with the flaws my sermon had, I do believe God rewards preaching the word of Christ, for “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17) If that's high church preaching, I think I'm in good company with Paul.


Andrew said...

In Reformation England King James outlawed the reading of vernacular scripture for non-clerics because the theological debates in the pubs became too violent.

What this tells me is that clearly people can understand even the complex theological nuances of the scripture, it is only the modern western culture we find ourselves in now, that is too shallow and ignorant for any textual / literary discourse or criticism.

Keep on preaching 'high church', perhaps the congregants will rise to the occasion - or at least the elect amongst them for whom the scriptures are perspicuous will ;)

I was at a Mass today and the priest used complex analogies and the mystical sense of the scripture and there were definately a few of us head-nodding.

Andrew said...

and the fact that Presbyterians are called 'high church' I find hillarious, as they are the original Lowchurchmen.

Though being raised Baptist I understand the accusation/claim.

Aaron said...

Keep at it Jared. If that is high church count me in. I am so sick of empty and repedative applications, I want my savior. Here is an application:

"See your savior in this text?
Worship Him."

That is something I never get tired of. Maybe it is because when I see my savior in the text I find rest, then strength to press on again.