From the prophetic voice of Flannery O’Connor:
“At last she lifted her head. There was only a purple streak in the sky, cutting through a field of crimson and leading, like an extension of the highway, into the descending dusk . . . . A visionary light settled in her eyes. She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven . . . . And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away . . . . In a moment the vision faded but she remained where she was, immobile . . . . In the woods around her the invisible cricket choruses had struck up, but what she heard were the voices of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah.”
—Excerpt from the closing paragraphs of O’Connor’s short story, “Revelation,” in Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories, 488-509.
“What does the preacher have to say that the psychologist, politician, stock broker, or social commentator has not already said with more passion and insight than most pastors can muster even on Easter Sunday? The credibility of the church’s proclamation will not be restored by acquiring new communication skills or devising better sermonic forms, as helpful as these may be. The answer is a preacher in whom the Word of God burns as a fire in his bones, one who must speak because he cannot keep silent, one who preaches with fierce humility yet also with unstinted audacity in the certain knowledge that God Himself is speaking in the faithful proclamation of His Word. Or, as Second Helvetic Confession (1566) put it even more succinctly: “The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.” This is the burden of doctrinal preaching.”
—Timothy George, “Doctrinal Preaching,” in the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching, edited by Michael Duduit (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1993), 93-102.
In his book, The Sermon as God’s Word: Theologies for Preaching, Robert W. Duke “examines a variety of theologies in order to show how the preacher’s choice and development of a text is shaped by the assumptions of which he or she may not consciously be aware” (11).
In the first chapter Duke considers the theology and preaching of neo-orthodoxy’s champion, Karl Barth. Duke writes one particular paragraph that is chock-full of important Barthian concepts and buzz-words. Having studied Barth a fair amount over the last five months, I could not help but to nod in happy agreement as I read the following:
This strange book—this Bible—was for Barth a testimony to God’s dealings with people. It is not essentially a record of our quest for God, but rather of God’s quest, in the person of Jesus Christ, for us. Nowhere else are we told of this movement of God toward us. Nor can God’s self-revelation be charted by human reason or discerned from any experience of culture, poetry, or science. God is wholly other than our thoughts. To become involved with the Bible is to enter into a strange new world. Barth never tired of creating images out of his experience. He writes that our situation is like that of a wayfarer who journeys through life “absorbed in his own thoughts and desires,” with eyes fixed ahead on the bend in the road—the curve that appears to be the goal sought. This is a familiar world, with all its sights and sounds soothing to the ears, and the traveler retains this sense of well-being until a crisis arises. But occasionally there occurs a foreign word, a sermon that moves him, excites him, and disturbs this ordered life. The bend in the road ahead reveals not a continuation of the way he has been traveling, but a strange new land, “distance undreamed of, a vista he does not see, a place he does not know, the beyond! This new land, shall we seek it? . . . To bring me to this point, to this sign of God’s highway, . . . to the end of what is earthly, and so to the beginning of things divine, just this is the aim of every thought and word of the Bible” (18).
The paragraph is Duke’s, but the quotations within it come from one of Barth’s sermons as recorded in Karl Barth and Eduard Thurneysen, Come Holy Spirit: Sermons, 196-197.