Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lent | Reading for Preaching Seminar with Dr. Cornelius "Neal" Plantinga, Jr. Post 1 of 3

Emmaus City Ash Wednesday Lent Dr. Cornelius Plantinga Marlborough MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

Lent Preaching | Revealing the Good, the Destructive, and the Glorious Redemption of Jesus

Last week on Thursday, February 12 and Friday, February 13, 2015, I had the privilege to be invited to a preaching seminar at First Congregation Church in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Dr. Cornelius "Neal" Plantinga, Jr., a pastor, professor, and leader in Emmaus City's denomination, was coming to share about his most recent book, Reading for Preaching: The Preacher in Conversation with Storytellers, Biographers, Poets, and Journalists through the lens of Lent. I had already read Deep Down Faith, a wonderful book that I look forward to sharing with those who are interested in becoming part of Emmaus City. Other books he has written include Not the Way It's Supposed to Be, Beyond Doubt, and Engaging God's World. I was looking forward to our time with Dr. Plantinga and he did not disappoint. In fact, he was thoughtful, generous, and encouraging. For the next three posts, I will be providing notes from my time with Neal and the other pastors present.

Dr. Neal Plantinga | Lent: Dying and Rising with Jesus

Colossians 2-3 and Romans 6 all deal with the similar theme of dying and rising with Jesus. For example, Colossians 3:1-4 says, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."

Jesus is the head, and where the head goes, so does the body. When Jesus died and rose, in mysterious and precious ways, so did his followers.

In light of this, we are to "clothe" ourselves with Jesus' life and virtues (Colossians 3:12). This use of the word "clothe" relates to how in ancient times when someone was baptized, they were done so naked, and then given new clothes as they came up from the water. One's baptism provides a family robe for the people of God that showcases itself through Jesus' compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness.

All of this life is rehearsal for our final dying and living. Confronting death and trusting in new life should not be unfamiliar for the follower of Jesus. We should be practiced in dying to what is not in Him and rising in light of who He is. Paul shares this with the church in Colosse. We die to what is not Jesus' (Colossians 3:5-11) and we live to what is in Jesus (Colossians 3:12-17).

What needs to die in us is "sin," but this word does not translate or sit well with this generation. But we can also talk about dying to self-destruction and foolish decisions. Sin is folly and it is enslaving. Jesus provides grace, and flourishing, and wellness. As Saint Augustine wrote, "Sins grieve God because they harm us, and He wants life to go well for us." Sin hurts ourselves. So sin is what needs to die in us and in our world.

Sin hurts us. It robs us of all the most valuable gifts God has given us personally and in the world around us. God is grieved by what breaks and and seeks to destroy the shalom He seeks to bring to us and our world. He aims to bring His flourishing peace. The center of the gospel is not our sin. It's our Savior. We can and need to talk about sin in the cradle of His grace that is taken care of at His cross.

The great irony of a preacher is that it is a sinner telling other sinners about the destruction of sin. We preach neither to "win big" nor to simply avoid losing big for ourselves. We preach to reveal that Jesus has "won big"  for God's children and for the world.

No one besides God can receive our bad secrets with perfect sorrow and perfect love. And no one besides God can receive our good secrets with perfect joy and perfect love. Jesus showcases this in all His glory.

Next post: Lent | Reading for Preaching Seminar with Dr. Cornelius "Neal" Plantinga, Jr. Post 2 of 3

Emmaus City Lent Ash Wednesday 2015 Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

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