Preach Magazine Issue 1 - Creativity and innovation in preaching - Page 46

46 FEATURE Theological innovation Firstly, most obviously and yet also most profoundly, Jesus’ preaching of the good news was theological news: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’ (Matthew 4:17). It must have been the best news, I can’t help adding, to those who had not heard it before; revolutionary, innovative, and even now endlessly worthy of the contemporary preacher’s closest attention. The kerygma – this good news message of salvation, of healing, of release that he promised to the poor, to the oppressed, to the prisoner – this good news message forms the content and focus and the drive of every Christian sermon worthy of the name. It is the Christian preacher’s foundation stone, the sine qua non. If we are not preaching the good news, we are not preaching. However, innovation, at least for us, doesn’t come into it. Jesus was ‘innovative’, theologically speaking, but our charge as followers is not to ‘innovate’ a new gospel. It is rather to bring the old, old story to twenty-first-century listeners inside and outside of the church. Where you stand on the conservative – liberal – radical spectrum will of course determine how much you think theological innovation is possible and necessary in postmodern cultures with pluralistic and relativistic worldviews. It is well beyond the scope of this article to enter that debate. Jesus was theologically innovative, but that does not give us license or permission to attempt to do the same. (If you find an effective way to preach Don Cupitt’s non-realism or Paul Tillich’s ‘ontological ground of our being’ as good news, by all means let me know.) Hermeneutical innovation The second way in which Jesus could be considered an innovator is in his hermeneutical approach to his own Scriptures. How did he read and interpret the Old Testament? Jesus believed in the authority of the Scriptures, certainly (see Matthew 4:4) and his intention was often to lead people to a truer understanding of the meaning of the Scriptures (as in Matthew 23:23). The interpretation of his own scriptures leads him into theological innovation, of course, and had a direct bearing on the kerygma, above. The Matthean ‘You have heard that it was said’ pericopes are a striking example. We are rarely if ever able to interpret