Dr. Jacob Corzine is assistant professor of theology at Concordia University Chicago and is co-editor of Feasting in a Famine of the Word: Lutheran Preaching in the Twenty-First Century (Wipf & Stock, Eugene, OR 2016)
The people should find their lives in your sermon, and no one’s life is unaffected by the coronavirus right now. It is the very fact that I can make such a blanket statement, free of all caveats, which makes it so necessary for us to preach on it.
As I weigh briefly here the advantages and disadvantages of preaching original sin and preaching actual sin, I don’t mean to argue for one and against the other. Instead, I mean to suggest a benefit in focusing a given sermon on one or the other, and that neither type of sermon should be the only type a Christian hears.
Where contrition is evident, the conscience has already been prodded, piqued, finally terrified. More Law only serves to confirm the lie this person is already at risk of believing: that the last work of the conscience is also God’s last word. But God’s last word is the word of absolution, not the confirmation of the conscience’s testimony, but now its…
And so, when you preach the Law, you are also instructing the conscience and thereby forming it. For some of your hearers, this will result in activating their consciences, making them more sensitive, so they become more aware of their sin and more urgently seek the Gospel. For others, it is a re-instruction.
Separating the Law from the conscience is not just bad because it makes the Law ineffective. If the Law and the conscience are not brought together, it also means leaving the conscience unaddressed and unassuaged when the Gospel is preached.
It is painful to listen to a pastor try to find some Good News in Jesus’ words about the camel and the eye of the needle (John 15:24) or the perfection of your heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48). Worse is when a brother gives up searching and just preaches a life of perfect love and goes back to his chancel bench…