The level of eloquence in this book,Preaching from Memory to Hope, is only outmatched by the depth of insight we find in Tom Long. What a delightful chapter number two is: “No news is bad news.”
It’s a chapter about the presence of God in living reality today and about witnessing to God’s presence — in the present tense — in preaching and living.
It might work best just to quote the build-up in this chap:
Luther, who was struck in his first act as a priest; Charles Taylor, the philosopher who pointed out that modernity is an addition to belief and not an elimination of belief … illustrations by Long of the need in our world to assert, affirm, and embody the living presence of God.
But we have absorbed through psychology and science the tendency to downplay the reality and presence of God, and Long is summoning us to preach and to live in a way that makes God’s presence known and possible to others. To do this, we need a language:
Which is where narrative preaching comes in. Now some quotes:
“What Christians are called to do every day in the world, preaching does paradigmatically in the theater of worship: negotiate a hearing for the faith in, with, and for the world” (33).
But preaching in mainline churches, and he’s a mainliner, is not like this: “In other words, there is plenty of morality and good counsel, but no desert bush bursting into flame” (34).
“To put it in preaching terms, either God is present and active in our preaching, or we are poseurs and pathetic fools” (37).
He opposes sermons that are little more than conventional wisdom: “Sermons on ‘Five Ways to Keep Your Marriage Alive’ or ‘Keys to a Successful Prayer Life’ or even ‘Standing Up for Peace in a Warring World’ may possess some ethical wisdom and some utilitarian helpfulness, but the often have the sickly sweet aroma of smoldering incense in a temple from which the deity has long since departed” (38). Whoa.
So there is no “good” news and “no news is bad news.”
Part of the recovery of our ability to see God at work and to preach God at work is learning to capture the capacity of language to be the carrier wave for divine communication.
In the rest of the chp, Long proposes that we’ve got to get beyond analogies to an imagination that sees in the Bible the arc of divine activity and to dwell in that arc of God’s activity so we can discern God at work today.
I found this talk by Tom Long …