This Week!
2007-11-05 by David Howell

David Mosser is our guest preaching blogger this week. David is senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Graham, Texas. He received his Ph.D. in rhetoric from the University of Texas, Austin. David writes UMPH-produced curriculum for adults. He is currently editor of The Abingdon Preaching Annual.
In the Sermon Feedback Cafe this week enjoy the art of Lucien Dulfan as you sip on the cafe vienna (special of the week). His Big Bang-Last Straw is based on the First Testament. Keep an eye out for sermons posted in the cafe and feel free to offer your feedback (or post your sermons for feedback).
Thanks to all those who contributed to the interesting discussions last week at both Writers' Alley and Sermon Feedback Cafe. And appreciation always to David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator.

We received some exciting news this morning. Bishop Mark Hanson will definitely be preaching at the Festival of Homiletics in May (Minneapolis). He joins two other bishops: Will Willimon (he is always thought provoking) and Michael Curry (electrifying preacher). Registrations are ahead of last year's pace at this time (over 1700 pastors attended in Nashville). Check out the complete lineup at Festival of Homiletics.

Safety and Significance, then Love?
2007-11-03 by David von Schlichten


I agree that we humans need to deal with the issues of safety and having significant identity first before love, or maybe it is that the three are interrelated. I can help someone feel safe as part of acting lovingly toward that person, for instance. This insight from that book via you regarding the primacy of safety and identity is profoundly helpful. Thanks many times. 

I also agree that love must be understood vis-a-vis the biblical story of covenant, call, commitment to God, etc. So I think I concur that love is not the Bible's main, overarching theme. Thanks for your guidance.

Gratefully yours in Christ,


themes and fruits
2007-11-03 by Tom Steagald

Hey, David

I would say--and this is not original with me, by any means!--that love is the first fruit of the Spirit, and surely an evidence of the way God works in, among and ultimately through those who are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ.

Certainly Paul considers love the "more excellent way" of Christian living--the glue that holds us together, the grease that cools the friction--but his description of love is, in most cases, more aspiration than experience. That is, the way we show and receive love is not usually in the terms he offers in I Cor 13.

In our tradition (United Methodism) there is an historic emphasis placed on "sanctifying grace," the work of the Holy Spirit to help believers "go on to perfection." It has always been my sense that the characteristic mark of "entire sanctification" would be the selfless expressions of love as evidenced in Jesus and described by Paul.

So love as the primary ethical theme... yes, I guess, but I would want to contextualize that within the parameters of a specifically biblical view of love: love that results from hearing/answering/following the summons of God to live for God's glory and the benefit of neighbor. "Loving neighbor," as Jesus said, is a second commandment, though like unto the first commandment of loving God with heart, soul, strength and mind (I might mention that one of my NT professors used to say that the idiom in Matthew 22:18 allowed for a translation that the "second commandment" is a "parable" of the first).

One more thought-- in July I taught a course at Hood Seminary, and one of the texts I assigned was by G. Lloyd Rediger, The Toxic Congregation: How to Heal the Soul of Your Church. He maintains (using some systems theory, developmental psychology and such) that folk in churches (and elsewhere) deal with three basic agendas: survival, identity and relationship. In the first, survival, the basic question is, Am I safe here? In the second, the basic question is, Does who I am matter? In the third, What's in this for us?

"Love" functions at that last level--love as mutuality, cooperation, selflessness, etc, for the sake of the group. But only after the safety and identity questions have been satisfactorily answered can the "love" question become authentic. Rediger maintains that most preachers preach at the third level, preach about love as the answer, when what most parishioners are in fact asking the prior questions--Am I safe? Does who I am matter?

I have found that insight quite provocative across a host of parish issues.

Do not mean to blab on and on.

Good preaching tomorrow!  Tom

Fascinating, Tom
2007-11-03 by David von Schlichten

Below you will find a conversation between Tom Steagald and me about what the Bible's main, overarching theme is. Feel free to join us!

Also, click on Share It! and then the Sermon Feedback Cafe to provide feedback on Rick Brand's intelligent sermon on Psalm 119 that he will preach on Sunday, November 4. Rick and I have been chatting about the sermon. You can join us.

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator



I'm going to rethink and repray about my thesis that love is the Bible's main theme. Thanks for the challenge.

What about this: Love is the most important ethical lesson of the Bible. Is that more accurate?

As I conclude my sermon series on understanding the Bible tomorrow, I may offer to the congregation this revision, that love is the most important ethical lesson of the Bible.

Yours in Christ,


Bible Sermon Dilemma
2007-11-02 by Tom Steagald

Hey, David von Schlichten ...

I am not sure that I agree that love is the overarching theme of the Bible--or if it is, it is a specific kind of love, defined not by prior associations of what love might be but specific connotations related to how God acts in the world and among believers. In sum, God's love takes on specific shape in creation, redemption, and especially--I think this is key--election. I am a Methodist, but the doctrine of election seems to me the (oft-forgotten but) overarching theme of Scripture.

God calls Abram and Sarai; God calls Samuel and David; Jesus calls disciples and all are put to specific work in builiding/rebuilding the Kingdom of God. It is grace that includes us in that plan (Ephesians 1 sings praise to God who lavishes grace upon us and makes us both precursors and meanwhile participants, incarnational harbingers and bold preachers of the coming kingdom). The death and resurrection of Jesus prove both that the responsibilities that come with God's election/call are matters of life and death, but also that as Jesus faithfulness to God was vindicated by resurrection (Kasemann), our faithfulness is vindicated by the presence of the Holy Spirit and hope.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I think many Christians have lost any sense of "placement" in the grand narrative of the texts: they do not see themselves in the Bible's story, do not know they are called, that they are a part of God's recreating and redemptive work, that they have been given both the ministry and the message of reconciliation (again, to my ear, a edgier and stronger word than love). That message makes our ministry in the world; that ministry incarnates our message--and all of it a result of God's call, of Jesus' summons, of the Spirit's empowering.

I do not know how any of that speaks to or helps with your final sermon...not that your final sermon needs any help I could offer it, even. I am just saying that those kinds of issues are what I am trying to deal with here, and All Saints (on the heels of Reformation Sunday) give me ready access to those notions.

Grace, Tom

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