Listening to preachers can feel too much like listening to parrots! Many preachers are predictable, repetitive—and even worse—one wonders if they could explain their inherited parrot phrases in contemporary, public square English. This affliction includes preachers from every theological/denominational tribe.
As a Lutheran preacher, I am saddled with fabulous phrases that were counter-cultural fighting words . . . 500 years ago! “The Word Alone! Faith Alone! Grace Alone! Christ Alone!” Today these phrases conjure up the same lack of emotion as “We Polked you in ’44, We shall Pierce you in ’52” (from the presidential election of 1852). The likely response is a shrug and “Huh?”
Sixteenth-century religious jargon may be incoherent to today’s ears, but today’s empty hearts would welcome the truth of the “Word Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone and Christ Alone” if these truths can shine with clarity and relevance. Which century am I talking to?
I have displayed these ancient gems in 21st-century settings by using October as a month to rethink Reformation. Last month I followed the lectionary with the following theme and messages:
What Are Your Biggest Questions About God?
• How Can I Connect with God? (Part 1, Matthew 21, Grace Alone)
• How Can I Connect with God (Part 2, Psalm 23, Faith Alone)
• What Is the Bible For? (Psalm 1, Word Alone)
• What Is the Church For? (1 Thessalonians 1, Luther’s catch phrase: “the priesthood of all believers”)
• Who Is Jesus? (Romans 3, Christ Alone)
Your turn: What works for you in helping people unpack ancient truths?