One of the things I love about blogging is meeting new people.
Kurt Johansen, who pastors a church in Dallas, Texas and teaches homiletics, recently wrote to say he had edited a book of two sermons by Karl Barth, and offered to put it in the mail for me.
I gladly accepted.
My very own autographed copy of The Word in this World: Two Sermons by Karl Barth, introduction by Will Willimon, arrived only a few days later, and I gobbled it up- in part, because it was very short, and in part, because it was Karl Barth. Barth’s development as a preacher fascinates me here. The two sermons are like brackets on a pastor’s life and work: the first, Barth’s words on the sinking of the Titanic, came when Barth was in his early 20′s; the second, years later when Barth was by now a seasoned preacher in the pulpit who, having signed the Barmen Declaration in the face of Hitler’s rising Third Reich, sought to give God’s people a word of encouragement in their stand against a totalitarian state.
Barth’s transformation as pastor, preacher and person is striking in these pages. Whereas the finality of tragedy- in this case, the grand, senseless loss of life in the sinking of the Titanic- shapes most of the first sermon, the power and presence of a sovereign God to act in life’s storms is the commanding focus in the second. I wonder to what this transformation ultimately owes itself. Is it simply the process of aging, which with time can impart an acclimation to tragedy itself? Is it the deepening of this man’s faith in God? Or, an increasing homiletical commitment to making Scripture the starting point for all claims we might make about ourselves, God and life itself? Maybe it is all three.
Barth’s words in the second sermon about the church, its frailty and its preposterousness of sorts, will form some of my own very unsystematic thinking about ecclesiology in my forthcoming book, Grace Sticks.
A big “thank you” to Kurt for connecting and for his ministry.
Got a good book to share, either one you’ve written, edited, or one you’ve read? Leave your suggestions below!
Later, my essay in a series titled “Perfectly Human” for popular evangelical author Amy Julia Becker. I hope you’ll tune in again here at this intersection between life and God and share your life with us.