"In What Do You Say That I Am? 21st Century Preaching
Dr. Susan Hedahl presents a wonderful tool for preachers and all hearers of the Word. Susan Hedahl invites us into a Holy encounter with Jesus through Lutheran preaching. She weaves throughout her text the question of 'Who do you say that I am?' Her challenge to preachers and hearers both, is to see this questions in light of a Theology of the Cross—that all of our answers and questions truly begin from the point of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.
Indeed, the challenge to preacher and listener in the 21st Century is to be able to share with friends and neighbors 'who we say Jesus is.' Hedahl challenges us to do so in light of historic Lutheran preaching, through the make up of a sermon, and by probing, 'who is listening.'
I found myself examining my preaching as I read Hedahl's thought provoking work."
— Bishop Ralph W. Dunkin, West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod of the ELCA
"The particular gift of this book is the conversation between the rich Lutheran tradition and its understanding of preaching and the current world in which preaching is challenged to engage new and confounding realities."
— Adele Stiles Resmer, The Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia
from the Introduction
"Who do you say that I am?" This was Jesus' question for his original band of followers and other interested on-lookers....
...Jesus' question prompts another question for both preachers and listeners: "How does his question preach?" At every Christian worship service that includes proclamation, in every time and place, Jesus' question and the manner it is proclaimed engage in dialogue with one another. The Christian preacher's work is always to respond in some measure to Jesus' question, whether this means speaking of his personality, words, activities, attributes, presence, or the realities of his divinity and his humanity. As a result, the preacher's verbal work becomes the work of the people. The sermon, or homily, urges them to answer the question for themselves as a corporate expression of the faithful and as individual practioners of the Christian faith.
In whatever forms the gospel is proclaimed, Jesus' question radiates from their center. At its core, is an invitation to choose life at its fullest. His question runs parallel to those certitudes of our faith that we proclaim: God in Jesus Christ is at work among us through the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself not only proclaimed his mission and nature but also effectively placed his assertions in tension with an all-pervasive question, "Who do you say that I am?" His question thus both challenges and nurtures our beliefs his life and works.
In couching the question of his identity in personal language, Jesus' statement is also an invitation. It is a relational question, a "you" and "me" query, that asks us to claim a different ground contrary to that of rote response. When confronted with Jesus' question, we do not stand on neutral ground.
from Chapter 1
Given this richly varied material, what seems to have evolved as a "typical Lutheran sermon" for most preachers and listeners today? The answer depends on the setting and types of preachers people have experienced. For those who are life—long Lutherans, description of a sermon may be easy. However, many people in Lutheran faith settings today have either experienced many different types of preaching other than Lutheran. Many may have expectations that present a radical departure from the traditional views of the Lutheran sermon constructs and moods heard in Lutheran settings today. Undoubtedly, one of the gifts of the Lutheran Christian faith perspective is a strong emphasis on preaching and the Bible, and so one might generally characterize a Lutheran sermon as:
- Liturgical—that is, it makes connections explicitly and implicitly with the rest of the worship service, including the sacraments.
- Interactive with biblical texts on a regular basis.
- Reflecting regularly on the relationships between the divine, the human, and the world.
- Expressive of the lived Christian tension between God's law and God's gospel.
- Utilizing a variety of forms and methods of presentation.
- Preaching done by either an ordained or lay person, female or male.
- Seeking application of texts and ideas to contemporary lived life.
- A long-term means of forming a congregation's spirituality.
- Highly susceptible to influences of societal uses of language.
- Speaking obliquely about social issues, although it does assert the tension between a pastoral and prophetic way of speaking. (from Chapter 1)