Someone once asked the brilliant African-American preacher Gardner Taylor how many points a sermon should have. He said, “At least one.” As I understand it now, at age 57, having preached hundreds of sermons across thirty years, I really only have one point I am trying to make in my preaching. In each sermon, I am looking for fresh images, new or renewed metaphors, parabolic-stories, and unexpected turns of phrase which might open us to the startling news that God is like Jesus.
In God, as former Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, said, “there is no unChristlikeness at all.” Jesus is a flesh-and-blood reassurance that God loves us now, always, and no-matter-what. God is for us, not against us.
The Jesus-like character of God provides me a working principle in my attempts to discern the voice of God in scripture, experience, and culture: If I can’t imagine that Jesus would say or do it, then it isn’t God who is saying and doing whatever it is I am hearing and experiencing.