I have listened to my pastor preach for over seven years. I can count on one hand the times he has given me one of those “aha!” moments. He is a great, faithful preacher. But he is mostly unoriginal. And, that’s just fine.
His preaching has cured me. For most of my pastoral career, I have lived for that “aha!” moment. Run-of-the-mill theology was fine, but it didn’t give me the theological buzz I craved. I lived on the edge of boredom, always looking for something to stave it off. I tended toward the pastors, professors and authors who helped me do so. I read the Bible always on the lookout for something I had never seen before. I preached, always trying to find the new spin on the old text. I taught Bible class, always exploring some new angle on an old passage.
Then, I started listening to my pastor preach. It was great preaching. It was consistently textual, consistently clear Law and Gospel, consistently centered on the death and resurrection of Jesus for sinners. But, there were no surprises.
My pastor’s preaching has been my therapy: Simple, straightforward, strong, and often completely unoriginal preaching of Sin and Grace. It wasn’t new. But it was the crucified and risen Jesus for a sinner like me, every Sunday, every sermon.
I was listening for something new; I should have been listening for something final, God’s final word. And, that’s exactly what his preaching has given me. In fact, that’s how he ended almost every sermon over the last seven years: “In Jesus Christ, you are forgiven of all your sins.” It wasn’t new, it wasn’t original, it wasn’t edgy. It was the Gospel. It was true. It was God’s final word.
If that Gospel no longer comes as a surprise, that’s okay. It doesn’t have to. The Gospel isn’t there to surprise me or alleviate my boredom. It’s there to forgive me. Even if I’ve heard it a million times, it’s still the Gospel. It still does what it says. It still gives me Jesus.
This is an edited excerpt of a forthcoming article, “New Thing Theology,” in the Issues, Etc. Journal.