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A Homiletic of Suffering

A Homiletic of Suffering

Bringing relevance to our preaching of the Gospel


Christopher Andrew Priebe

August 13th, 2002


I. Introduction

II. A World That Creates Suffering

A. Suffering Is Caused by the Rejection of God

B. This Rejection Is Corporate and So Suffering Is Corporate

C. This All Began with the Original Sin

D. People Are Longing for Life to Be Set Right Again.

D. Suffering Is the Starting Point of Evangelism

III. A God Who Knows Suffering

A. People Feel God Has Left Them Alone

B. They Long for God to Come near

C. God Came near and Became One in Our Lament

D. Preaching Helps People Know God Has Not Left Them Alone

IV. A Gospel That Fights Suffering

A. The Gospel Is More than Unity in Death

B. The Gospel Is a Lifetime Process of Healing

C. The Gospel Is God's Calling People into the Kingdom

D. The Kingdom Is in Conflict with Satan Who Causes Suffering

E. The Kingdom Continues as We Drive out the Forces Causing Suffering

V. A People That Hope in Suffering

A. We Still Suffer for the Kingdom Has Not Reached its Full

B. We Suffer More since We Fight Against the Forces That Create Suffering.

C. Our Suffering Is Our Mark of Discipleship Showing We Follow the Suffering Christ

D. We Have Hope for One Day We Shall Be Made New



"My life is hell!" she screams with tears running down her face -- seventeen years of abuse finally breaking out of silence. If she could crawl out of her body and vanish into a hole she would but now she reaches out in one last effort for hope as she comes to Church. And she is not alone. I look around and I see pain. A young man takes drugs for the first time for the hope of being accepted. Another dresses in the latest fad longing for someone just to notice that she exists. Another did not mean to kill anyone he just had too much to drink, he never thought the car would swerve like that. Another's hair is falling out, her friends pass her in school, some offer a hug but no one knows quite what to say. "Where is God?" they ask, "Where is my hope?"

And I stand before a crowd of young people and I tell them that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life and I wonder if they just sit there and wonder if I am on the same planet. They have reached a point where their minds are beginning to look back over their life and many of them are beginning to see a pattern of pain and rejection. And I do not use the word "many" lightly for in my experience as a youth pastor I have found that behind the glossy image they portray almost all the youth I work with struggle with some insecurity, an "invisible audience" constantly critiquing every word they say, move they make and thread they wear. The world is an unstable place to them and in a moment their stronghold of friends could wash away. Parents get divorced, friends commit suicide, people bring guns to school - these are some of the real issues that people deal with today.

I find this more evident in teenagers who come from the community but it is also present in our Church kids only they hide it deeper since in Sunday School they learnt to sing, "Since I met Jesus I have been Happy all the Time" and do not want to look bad. We teach them to clap their hands and we redo the song until they sing it with "enthusiasm, as if you mean it" until we have reinforced the lie they will later live that a good Christian does not struggle and they put on a mask to cover the pain. However, a bleeding world looks at the Church and cannot relate for all they see is a mask they could never wear and all the while the Church is haemorrhaging inside.

Some however look at the Church and long to have such happiness. They conclude that the reason they have had so much pain is that they have not been right with God so they come forward at an altar call to accept forgiveness and step out into God's wonderful loving plan for their lives. What many fail to realize though is that God's plan for their life is not always the same as their plan for their life for God intends to make them after His image and His image involves bleeding for a broken world. Some have testified of how happy they have been but what concerns me are those who say, "I became a Christian when I was thirteen. That was the beginning of the hardest year of my life for it is when my dad began to sexually abuse me. I thought things were going to get better but now they seemed to be getting worse. Has God abandoned me?"

To ignore suffering in our preaching is to ignore what our listeners are really dealing with and thus to be irrelevant. This leaves them with an imaginary world of hallow spirituality that does not ring true to our world's experience. John Denver said, "the pastor is doomed to failure if he or she does not take time to get to know the church, the people, and the community"(1) Loscalzo wrote an entire book on identifying (becoming one with) those he preaches to. Reflecting on great preachers he said, "They identified with my hurts, joys, concerns and needs."(2) When we fail to become one in suffering with those we preach to it is shallow preaching that does not touch the depths of the human condition and is thus powerless to change it. To wade deep into the human heart is to swim out into the deep water, far away from the shore where the feet can no longer touch on shallow responses but are left lost in the great vastness of the sea, sinking with only a small hand reaching upwards for hope and it too to be gone forever. Only when we have thrashed the water with them and had the water pour in over our head will we find relevance for at last we shall be where they are and this imaginary world of Christian idealism will have fallen and they can walk into something that is real. For any preaching that denies the pain of the hearer both before and after she receives Christ denies the reality of the hearer and imposes on her a world that does not exist and will never work. My purpose then is to strip away this imaginary world of suffering-less spirituality and see the Gospel as the King entering the world of suffering and calling us to do the same that we may drive out the forces of hell.

A World that Creates Suffering

Some people wonder why there is suffering on earth. Some say it is God's fault but over time I have come to see it is our fault. I do not mean that when I get sick that I did something to cause it. What I mean is that all of us together have made this world what it is and since we all live in this world we get sick and go through all the rotten things that we keep adding to our world each day(3). It is because people have chosen not to follow God that this world has shifted from being good into an ever increasing hell like existence.

Whenever someone raises his fist at God and says, "I don't need You! I am going to live my life on my own" he is creating hell on Earth. That is what Adam and Eve did when they took the fruit in the garden. They were saying that they don't need to live under God's authority, that God was holding back on them, that they will do it on their own. Within the next few chapters humanity has turned to murder, mass-murder and then such wickedness that God grieved He had made mankind. It is not God's fault, it is our fault. We as humanity are the ones who walked away from God. And as Romans chapter one teaches; the more people turn away from God the more they are handed over to their sinful desires.

In frustration people say, "I am going through hell!" In reality however we have made the world into a place like hell for hell is a place where God is not (or perhaps due to His omnipresence - a place without His blessing) I am taking some liberty with the use of the word. The reality however is this is not truly hell but only a taste of it. One day God shall give people what they wanted -- a place apart from God, thus apart from everything that is good - this will truly be hell. For now we suffer in part in our separation from God, then we shall suffer fully.

Suffering is the direct result of corporate sinfulness. In saying this I do not reject the idea that suffering at times can also be a consequence for one's personal actions as in the case of Elisha's servant Gehazi (2 Kings 5:27), the Corinthians who had taken sick and even died (1 Cor 11:30) and a great deal of others who suffered personal consequences. However, the same Jesus who said to the invalid, 'Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." (Jn 5:14) also said about the blind man, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." (Jn 9:3) While there is always a cause and effect result to one's personal sin (Gal 6:7,8), suffering as a whole is the result of the cumulative effort of all those individuals but now it affects me as well for I have to live with them.

The answer to why there is suffering is really found in the doctrine of "Originial Sin". Henri Blocher entitled one of his chapters as, "Original Sin as a Key to Human Experience". I think he is onto something there. He quotes the Times Literary Supplement as saying, "The doctrine of the original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith."(4) Of course this is not literal but it does describe how something has gone wrong with humanity - we are fallen from what we are made to be. This is something we can preach about, something people can relate to. Perhaps that is why we are so unsettled with suffering for deep within us we know it is not supposed to be that way.

And we speak to an unsettled people, ones who are fallen and live in a fallen world and wonder why? Not only "Why are things broken?" but "Why is God so far away?" These questions are longings for the way things used to be. Suffering then is the starting point of evangelistic preaching. We begin by asking the questions the people are asking only to find out that it is not God who has walked away from us but us from God. This starts in Genesis chapter 3 but it reaches into our lives and world today. It is our choices that are creating hell on Earth and since those choices are really saying "I don't need God" the answer that will begin to form in people's hearts are, 'I really do need God!"

A God who Knows Suffering

People sense within them the emptiness that Pascal calls, "The God shaped hole". Unfortunately they are often unable to identify their need is for God (or at least they ignore that option). They live a tele-commercial like livestyle where if they drive the right car and have the right stuff then they will be happy but find the emptiness remains. In moments of great sorrow such as cancer and car-accidents they at last turn to what has been knawing at them all this time, "My God why have you forsake me?" For this is at last how they feel - that God has abandoned them and left them in the ditch even as the religious left the Samaritan there in the ancient parable. At times they even feel God has inflicted this upon them but most often it is the abandoned sorrow of why such an all-powerful God does nothing if in fact He does exist and could do something? It is the feeling of being alone, like a boy lost in the woods crying out but knowing no one will hear for no one can understand their pain. They walk amidst the masses, dragging their heavy burden and no one notices. Being alone is the worst sorrow of suffering.

And then we show them Jesus. Not a Jesus who stands aloof and does not know pain like the masks we wear upon our faces but the Jesus who crouches beside their fallen and weeping body and rests a hand upon their shoulder, looks them in the eye and knows. Not the "I know" of one who feels uncomfortable and does not know what to say. Those words of comfort are shallow and we all see through them. Rather Jesus speaks to them words that reach into the depths of the soul that only one who has dirtied his sandals on the same road can say. In fact, they are not even words but a shared experience - more, a unity of soul, a oneness. It is this oneness we must help them see for it will displace the aloneness.

When we say, "My God why have you forsaken me?" it is not that God has left us. In reality it is we who have left God, as a society - and often as an individual I mean. What is important is that the soul is longing that God was close. This is a turning point for the reason God is far away is that we have said, "I don't need You! I'll live my life on my own!" Now at last we have put ourselves in a place where we have what we wanted and we do not like it. Our hearts are now changing and we are beginning to cry out, "Come near to me God! Save me!"

And God comes near, very near, in fact He becomes one with us, that is in our suffering. No one can now say that God is distant, irrelevant, other-worldly for God became man, the apodeme of relevance. He walked in our sandals on our Earth where people have walked away from Him. He suffered the same unjust pain of a world that is broken. He was mistreated and they beat Him and mocked Him and nailed Him to a cross. And on that cross He said, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And in that statement He shows that He knows what it is like to be alone and to have the very thing He loves most dear to be ripped out of His hands. His voice joins in the human lament and as one chorus we all cry out, "Why have you forsaken me?" And in so doing we are no longer alone in our sorrow but God has joined us and sits with us and feels our pain. Oddly in the very same cry that turns our heart to God and longs for Him to be involved we find out that He is there with us, suffering and crying our tears.

Jurgen Moltmann wrote a book entitled, "The Crucified God" where he talks about a God who "humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him." (Moltmann, 276) I would like to write a sermon one day entitled, "The Naked God" and speak about the pain and humiliation of Christ. One who became like us and thus can help us. Perhaps this is what Scripture means when it says, "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." (Heb 2:18)

This is the God we must preach in the Gospel. I fear too often we think of God as far away and thus unable to feel our pain. This leads to our sense of aloneness. Moltmann suggests, "A God who cannot suffer is poorer than any man. For a God who is incapable of suffering is a being who cannot be involved...He cannot weep, for he has no tears. But the one who cannot suffer cannot love either." (Moltmann, 222) But our God is a God who feels our pain.

The SS hanged two Jewish men and a youth in front of the whole camp. The men died quickly, but the death throes of the youth lasted for half an hour. 'Where is God? Where is he?' someone asked behind me. As the youth still hung in torment in the noose after a long time, I heard a voice in myself answer: 'Where is he? He is here. He is hanging there on the gallows...'(5)

One of the hardest tasks in preaching is we must help people see that God is with them in their suffering. He is not distant and uncaring nor is He a tyrant but He is among them as one who suffers: the naked God hanging upon the tree. Once they find Him as one with them in their pain they will begin to trust Him with their souls. But before that how can they trust someone they believe does not care or who inflicts such pain on them?

God did not avoid pain and so we should not either. In our preaching we must touch real issues that the people are dealing with. When I say touch issues I do not mean to form a nice three point outline on what divorce is. It is one thing to intellectualize a subject and another to feel it. Touching by its definition is not about standing at a distance talking about something but coming up close and letting ones skin come in contact with another's. It has to do with feelings, real feelings, the one we all deal with. The preacher must be transparent and thus real. The preacher must share stories of his own pain and how he has wrestled with God and walks with a limp. In so doing the listeners will hear of a God who is real and who knows their pain.

A Gospel that fights Suffering

But it is not sufficient to merely become one with those we speak to nor just to lead them into unity with the suffering Messiah (although there is healing in this for they are no longer alone). So far we have only entered into the death of Christ (which is no small thing) but there is more to come. It is interesting that Jesus was in the grave for three days. Likewise we must leave the listeners in the grave for some time. When a young lady comes after holding in the pain of incest for twenty years it is artificial to expect her healing to happen right away. She needs time to grieve her loss and to slowly take the hand of Jesus. Trust takes time to build and it is not easy to let go of that which we have held onto for so long. Some describe this as jumping off a cliff into the darkness, trusting only that God said His hand would be there to catch them. The preacher should not rush or force her into God's healing hand for she will only get hurt in the fight. She needs to be gently drawn in. There should be silence, a time when she can wrestle with God. Sometimes people are ready to come that very night and other times they need to go home and have God whisper their name and draw them with His mysterious acts of coincidence.

Healing can be pre-mature. Imagine a man who has lost his wife. He may try to deny or ignore the reality and may even go through the motions of healing but only when he has mourned her death can he come out the other side. And it is something he shall always carry, only differently, like a scar that reminds us of things lost but no longer looks or feels as it once did. Indeed there is a point where one understands Christ's love and forgiveness and that person is willing to accept it as true. At that point that person undergoes a death and a resurrection, the old is gone, the new has come. There is a healing and a starting over. God now lives within and they shall never be alone. I believe in a moment of conversion and it changes everything but I also believe in a lifetime of conversion. That is we spend the rest of our life dying to that old self with its sins and pains and rising to our new self. That needs to be part of our preaching. Christians will still be hurting and they will still be struggling, it is our role to walk beside them and lead them over and again to the unity of the cross and the glory of the resurrection.

Healing is possible. In fact, it is God's goal. It is not however Satan's goal for he is the thief who comes to "steal, kill and destroy" (Jn 10:10a). Satan would like nothing more than to turn the world into a hell. Since the beginning of sin man has longed for the day of God's promise when "he will crush [the serpents] head" (Gen 3:15). Interestingly, the first words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark are, "The time has come." In these words we sense an anticipation as though something is about to happen. And it is for the next words are, "The kingdom of God is near." (Mark 1:15a) Imagine, a kingdom where God is King! A place where the upraised fist that shouts out, "I'll do it on my own! I don't need God!" is broken and all the suffering it causes. This is what Mark calls the good news (Mark 1:14) and this is what we need to be proclaiming. "The kingdom of God is near!". That means the kingdom of Satan is falling, his tyranny is being overthrown, his darkness expelled and replaced by a glorious light. "Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15b) Which good news? The kingdom of God is near. Which is interesting for so often we think of the good news (Gospel) as "you can be saved" when really God has so much more in mind.

And what is that? In all the Gospels only the final sections are designated to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ but what about the remainder of the books? If His goal was only to die for our sins and our goal only to be saved why does it record so much more? The reason is that He came to bring in a kingdom and to make us members of that kingdom. This kingdom was in direct conflict with the kingdom of Satan and so all through the gospels we see Him casting out demons and healing the sick. This is a reversal of the hell like existence the Devil is trying to bring in. Whereas Satan would like to make this world into hell Jesus comes saying, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18,19; Isa 61:1,2) Therefore with this arrival of the Kingdom Mark shows a direct conflict with the forces of hell for even in the first chapter Jesus has already been driving out demons (1:26,34,39) and healing the sick (1:31,32,42) Some accused Him of doing this by the power of the Devil and in His reply Jesus declares, "But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." (Mt. 12:28) Notice the direct connection between His ministry of casting out demons and the arrival of the Kingdom. What He is saying is that when the Kingdom of Heaven comes it will be conflict with the demonic world and He will have the power to drive out demons. One of the goals then of the kingdom is to overthrow the forces of darkness. Interestingly, since Jesus was casting out demons at the time when He said this then He was also saying that the Kingdom of God has come upon you. It is a present reality and it is evidenced by God's declaration and war against the forces of hell which create suffering in our world.

This mission is then passed onto His disciples for Jesus gives them authority to drive out evil spirits and heal every disease and then sends them out to "preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons." (Mt 10:1,7-9) Notice how related their preaching and their actions are for their actions of healing and exorcism are a confirmation of the reality of the coming of the kingdom. Jesus says, "these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons...they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." (Mark 16:17,18) The point I am making is this: With the coming of the Kingdom comes a conflict with the forces of hell and the suffering it brings. Just as He has entrusted His disciples with the ministry of preaching the message that the Kingdom is coming into their individual lives(6) and backing it up by showing the Kingdoms power in conquest against the forces of evil so we too are given the mandate to preach the Kingdom. "The time has come" we say into their hearts. That which you have been longing for is almost here, God is coming to you. He wants to free you from your bondage and set you free so that you may walk with Him. He wants to be in relationship with you.

Moreover, He has empowered us with His Spirit so we may continue His ministry. "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (Jn 14:12) "Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." (Jn 16:7)

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Cor 12:7-11)

We have each been gifted with special gifts of the Spirit to go out and break down the kingdom of darkness and bring in the kingdom of light. And part of our ministry today still includes driving out demons and healing the sick. As a Baptist minister this has been hard for me to see since it done very subtly in our tradition but this is his instruction to his disciples on their training mission (Mt 10:1,7-8), on their commission (Mk 16:15-18) and in their ministry (Acts 5:12-16). Some have claimed such things have ceased at the canonization of Scripture which they claim is the "perfection" (1 Cor 13:8-10) but since these things still go on and verse 12 writes of a time when "then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall be known fully, even as I am fully known." I believe it refers to when the kingdom of God shall reach completion. For although the kingdom of God is now among us it is not complete but is growing like a mustard seed and will reach its fullness in heaven. There at last there shall be no more tears, or sorrow or pain and the conquest against hell shall be over. Until then we need to be active in using all the gifts of the Spirit to go into this world and see the kingdom of God overthrow the kingdom of darkness. This includes preaching the good news that a person can be saved but it also means to display God's miraculous power that is evidence that the kingdom has come. Specifically to drive out demons and heal the sick and thus tangable show the kingdom's coming and conflict against the Devil and the pain he brings.

A People that Hope in Suffering

Nevertheless, since we still live in a world that has walked away from God we can expect that sin and suffering will occur all around us and even to us. In fact, now that we are on the side of God and oppose the forces that create suffering we can expect them to turn against us and increase our suffering. And so we come back to our saying, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." Certainly He does but His plan is not to take us out of this world but to use us in this world to see it transformed. There can be no higher calling nor harder task but we have all the forces of Heaven behind us now! As we preach the Gospel we are not calling them to simply come forward and be saved and that is the end of the story. Rather we are telling them that the time has come and they can now enter the kingdom of God and God's conquest against hell. This means they must leave behind the kingdom of darkness where they thought they were in control and be carried over by Jesus(7). They can now enter into a place where they can at last have God as their King and they can take up His call to "Follow me". That is to follow Him who picks up His cross for the world and dies. To pick up our cross and follow Him is to join Him in the death march to Golgotha, there is no other place we may carry the cross. Preaching then is to call people back to God, to cease trying to save themselves (that old upraised hand saying, "I don't need God, I'll do it on my own!") and let Jesus carry them. It is calling them to die to their old self and their old life and to rise to a life where they can at last have what they really want - "To follow God!" And following which leads them to a life of love and self-sacrifice in a world that hates the God they treasure. To neglect to tell our listeners what they are really doing is to set them up for failure and to miss the point of the Gospel. For hard times shall come and if the reason they "got saved" was so all their pain would go away they will quickly walk away.

God said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Mt 5:10-12) and "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim 3:12) Bonhoeffer said, "Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship. The disciple is not above his master.. if we lose our lives in his service and carry our cross, we shall find our lives again in the fellowship of the cross with Christ."(8) Persecution is the mark of a true follower of Jesus for just as the world hated Jesus so shall they hate us. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Peter 5:8-9) We are indeed involved in a war against a real enemy who seeks to destroy us. Yet we are not alone but are joined together as a community of those who suffer. Our common bond is Christ who suffered for us and with whom we join in His sufferings. Now, at last our suffering has purpose for they are working towards the goals of the kingdom. In fact, we have reason to sing in the prison cells they place us for we have hope. The more they try to beat us the more we know we are united with Christ and the more we know we shall rise out victorious. Nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:38,39). We "rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you." (1 Peter 4:13,14)

And we are not without hope for we know that the kingdom shall prevail and so we do not give up.

Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. (2 Thess 1:4-10)

It is our hope of heaven that keeps us going for we know in the end all shall be made right and this old tent shall pass away with all its pain and all its struggles and we shall be made new. If in our preaching we only speak of the pain we must endure here on Earth in the kingdom conquest against suffering then few shall find the cause worthwhile for they have suffering enough as it is without adding more to release others. Rather our hope is in Heaven, we see the world now in light of what it one day will be and this is where God gives us hope to press on. We know our labour is not in vain! And so we must preach of the days to come when suffering shall be no more and God shall be our King and we His people.


In conclusion. Since people are going through suffering as a result of humanities walking away from God the preacher needs to use words of suffering, especially in the form of personal stories and struggles with God's apparent absence in order to wade out into the deep waters where the listeners are struggling to find God. Here the two become one in the lament, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" which is really a cry for God to come near. Which He does and shows that He is there among us, we however are the ones who have walked away and He has come for us. At last their hearts can trust and God transforms them through a death and resurrection which brings the healing. Healing however is not complete yet and our suffering is not vanquished yet for the Kingdom has not reached its fullness in Heaven yet. Instead we join with Him in His kingdom conquest to drive out suffering in others lives even at the cost of our own. All the while we hold onto the conviction that this world is not what it should be and the hope that God shall make all things new. This is relevant preaching for it is centered on the relevant God - the God made one of us.


Blocher, Henri. Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B.

Eerdman's Publishing Company, 1997.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York: Macmillan, 1959 trans from

Nachfolge 1937 by R.H. Fuller.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. "Existentialism and Humanism." In The Study of Human Nature. 2nd edition,

ed. Leslie Stevenson, 185-206.

Loscalzo, Craig A. Preaching Sermons that Connect: Effective Communication Through

Identification. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of

Christian Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

1. Loscalzo, p 81 quoting John Denver. "Quality", pp. 14-18.

2. Loscalzo, 15.

3. Jean-Paul Sartre writes "I decide to marry...I am thereby committing not only myself, but humanity as a whole, to the practice of monogamy. I am thus responsible for myself and for all men, and I am creating a certain image of man as I would have him to be. In fashioning myself I fashion man." (Sartre, 189). What one person does affects the definition of what is humanity, thus when Hitler created extermination camps he redefined humanity (thus all of us) as ones capable of great injustice. Every persons actions affect every others person life and definition. When Adam and Eve ate the apple it brought pain into the world and defines us as fallen. When someone abuses another it scares the abused and defines them as abused.

4. Blocher, 84. Quoted by Peters 1994: 326, from (Reinhold) Niebuhr's Man's Nature and His Communities (New York: Scribner's, 1965, p.24.

5. Quoted in Moltmann, 273-4 from E.Wisel, Night, 1969. 75f

6. Jesus said to a teacher of the law when he answered wisely, "You are not far from the kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34) The word "you" indicates an individual relationship. Thus "The Kingdom of God is near" (Mark 1:15) could read "The Kingdom of God is near you" and suggesting, "therefore enter into it" which is what the teacher needed to do.

7. For more on this image of the Gospel see Jan Hettinga, Follow Me: Experiencing the Loving Leadership of Jesus, NavPress, 1996 and my developments of the idea at

8. Bonhoeffer, 91.

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