Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Living Word

Two separate quotes that have crossed my path on the subject of  the living word.

One from Luther on "A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels."

But what a fine lot of tender and pious children we are!  In order that we might not have to study in the Sciptures and learn Christ there, we simply regard the entire Old Testament as of no account, as done for and no longer valid.  Yet it alone bears the name of Holy Scripture.  And the gospel should really not be something written, but a spoken word which brought forth the Scriptures, as Christ and the apostles have done.  This is why Christ himself did not write anything but only spoke.  He called his teaching not Scipture but gospel, meaning good news or a proclamation that is spread not by pen but by word of mouth.  So we go on and make the gospel into a law book, a teaching of commandments, changing Christ into a Moses, the One who would help us into simply an instructor.  (In Lull, p. 110)

The other one is from the book I still have not finished:  Just's "Heaven on Earth".   From page 198, he deals with "The Liturgy of the Word".

We readily speak of the Eucharist as the real presence of Christ, but we should also speak of Christ's presence in His Word.  We tend to say, properly so, that the Holy Spirit works through the Word in order to create faith.  But we need to add that faith is created because of the real presence of Jesus Christ according to both His divine and human natures.  In His Word, Christ is present in His body and soul, flesh and blood.  He is present in the Word not to feed our bodies but our souls.  The problem comes in describing this presence, and Lutheran dogmatic categories about the presence of Christ in the Word could well be more fully developed.  This presence is, or course, a mystery, but one that we affirm as part of our understanding of Christ's real presence in the liturgy.  The one present bodily in the Lord's Supper first invites us through the Gopspel and preaching.  Preaching cannot be divorced from the Sacrament, and all Christian preaching must in fact be Christological and sacramental.  This affirms our confession that Christ promised to be present by His Spirit whereever His Word is read and preached in the Church's worship.
Two things here.  It strikes me that he says that "the dogmatic categories about the presence of Christ in the Word could well be more fully developed".  You would think that with our emphasis on the external word, the means of grace, we would have this very well developed.

The other one.  Recently, I read somewhere else in Luther, that when Christians gather there should always be exposition of the word, otherwise, we can just forget about singing, ringing, reading, etc.  There should always be preaching, (i.e. "proclamation"?). 

I told this to a pastor who was mulling over the theology of requiring pastors to speak their sermons without reading them from notes. I don't know if that helped him, but it seems to me that natural speech would be more "viva vox" than reading from a book or your own sermon notes.  I also mentioned that listening to a seminarian read his sermon from his notes in a sing-song, completely put me to sleep, so that I could not even listen to it.  And I have a high tolerance for sermons and lectures, I have been told.  I can listen when others can't.  So, yes, I'd say, preach from your mind, not your notes.  Write the notes first, but get them into your heart and mind and then preach.  Anyhow.  My tow bits worth.

From Arthur Just, just a little bit more. 

Viva Vox Jesu

Viva vox Jesu--the living voice of Jesus--is what we hear when His Word is read and preached.  The Word of Jesus is both a written and an oral word.  this Word, though written in words inspired and canonically received, is also spoken and heard within a community called the bgody of Christ.  this voice is a living voice, for by it jesus Christ is present for us bodily.

This Word comes from the Word made flesh, a Word that has creative power--power to cast out demons, heal the sick, raise the dead, and release us from our sins.  With the Old Testament saints, we acknowledge that God's Word is God's food for hungry pilgrims who have journeyed in Christ through a baptism of His death and resurrection toward the final destination of full communion with Him in heaven.

This Word is interpreted within the community, broken open through preaching as hearts burn through proclamation of prophet and apostle.  At the center of our task of interpretation is the understanding that exegesis is always undertaken with preaching as central to our explication of the Scriptures, for the Scriptures wer meant to be preached.  To interpret Scriptures rightly requires a proper method of  interpretation that reflects a biblical theology of preaching.  As a result, to confess our preaching as Viva vox Jesu is also to speak of the centrality of christ in Holy Scripture.  and those who proclaim Christ's living voice suffer for that proclamation.

Ulrich Asendorf, an enlightened Luther scholar, describes the Viav vox Evangelii.  He provides a corrective to those who claim for Lutehr a narrow view of sensus literalis, which means "the literal sense."  But he begins by stating how important it is to see the Word of God as a preached Word.  Asendorf writes:

[Viva vox Evangelii is] one of the key words and catch phrases in Protestant theology.  Its common usage refers to the Word of God as kerygmatically understood.  Accordingly, God's Word is first and foremost the preached Word.  Certainly, thereby is meant one of the central concerns not only of the theology of Martin Luther but also that of the Reformation in general. 

Hughes Oliphant Old describes a very similar understanding of the Word of God among both the New Testament writers as well as the Early Church fathers.  He speaks of this as Christ's "kerygmatic presence" and cites numerous examples in the Gospels and Paul's epistles where Scripture testifies that its very nature is kerygmjatic, particularly Luke 10:16 and its parallel in Matthew 10:40.  For Old, "kerygmatic presence" simply means "that when the word of Christ is truly preached, then Christ is present."
By the way, Wikipedia has for "kerygma" this definition:

Kerygma (Greek: κήρυγμα, kérugma) is the Greek word used in the New Testament for preaching (see Luke 4:18-19, Romans 10:14, Matthew 3:1). It is related to the Greek verb κηρύσσω (kērússō), to cry or proclaim as a herald, and means proclamation, announcement, or preaching.

The New Testament teaches that as Jesus launched his public ministry he entered the synagogue and read from the scroll of Isaiah the prophet. He identified himself as the one Isaiah predicted in Isa 61 (Luke 4:17-21). The text is a programmatic statement of Jesus' ministry to preach or proclaim (Kerygma), good news to the poor and the blind and the captive.

In terms of "kerygma",  I find it hugely helpful to say that Luther did exercise a biblical criticism, as well; however, his was a kerygmatic criticism, which is that that which does not jive with the gospel, is to be subject to that which does.  Hence, James is the epistle of "straw".  He needs to fit with Paul, not Paul with James.

This viva vox, in my mind applies to Pastors and their preaching and teaching ministry, but also to the entire church as we are Christ to one another in what we say and do.  "Where two or three are gathered..."  and  "You have done it to me."   All the more let us watch what we say.  Let it be wholesome truth and proclamation.  Let it be true and kind, let it be healing, cutting both ways, let it be Christ crucified and risen. Let us look each other in the face as we say it and hear it.  Let it sink in deeply.  Let your and my face and voice and hand be the Lord's.

This probably could indeed be better developed among us Lutherans, as we don't seem to share as freely as we ought.  Let it dwell among us richly.

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