Since 1977, the Journal for
Preachers provides a unique
resource for the high calling of
proclaiming the gospel.
quarterly in time for Advent, Lent,
Easter and Pentecost, this valuable
periodical is available by
subscription — $24 a year in the U.S.
To Subscribe by mail:
PO Box 1294
Montreat, NC 28757
access to the full content of current
and past issues also is available
through an ATLA library with ATLASerials.
Easter 2019 Foreword
Good Friday is a painful reminder that we cannot save ourselves. Even those of us who are “Progressive Christians,” those of us so sure of our human potential, those of us who are so busy with our benevolent activities, perhaps especially those of us who are preachers—we cannot save ourselves. The bloody cruciﬁxion of Jesus is a painful reminder of the depths of our alienation from God, neighbor, and creation. So we sing with our congregations: “Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon You? It is my treason, Lord, that has undone You. ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied You; I cruciﬁed You” (“Ah, Holy Jesus”).
Easter is God’s response to our treason. What we could not do for ourselves, God has done for us. And so in amazement we sing with our congregations: “Lo! Jesus meets us, Risen from the tomb; Lovingly He greets us, Scatters fear and gloom” (“Thine Is the Glory”). He comes to us in spite of our treason. He comes to us from beyond our explanations. He comes to us—even to us preachers—as a gift to be received in trusting gratitude. Now our task as preachers is to announce that the victory of life is won. We are called to tell the story of Good Friday and Easter so that the church may feel hope stirring in these hard days and may ﬁnd the courage to follow Jesus into the deathly alienations of the world.
Martha Jane Petersen begins this Easter issue of the JP by recalling a worship experience with the Taizé Community. A song made her realize that, during his critical hour, Jesus had an acute physical and emotional need for the companionship of his disciples. She encourages us, as we enter Holy Week, to hear Jesus’ cry: “Stay with me; abide with me!” In Walter Brueggemann’s “Awaiting the Verdict: Good Friday,” we look at Jesus standing before Pilate and enter the pivot point of world history. We are left, says Brueggemann, “like the old governor, with the haunting question, ‘What is truth?’” The verdict, says Brueggemann, “will not be long in coming.”
Four Easter sermons follow. Amy McCullough leads us into the startling emptiness of the tomb and into the emptiness of so much of our lives. But out of and into that emptiness comes the Risen Lord. “The future has been changed by God’s bottomless heart, God’s self-emptying gift that pulls the world forward into life.” Then, out of the African American church, come three very different and powerful sermons on the resurrection. In “The Power and Purpose of the Resurrection,” Marvin McMickle says that “to read the cruciﬁxion story is to realize that at its heart, that event was about people saying NO to the message that Jesus came to bring.“ But the “resurrection was God saying YES to everything Jesus said and did.” In “Let These Bones Live,“ Lisa Thompson takes us into Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones where we hear God ask the haunting question: “Mortal, can these bones live?” And the Lord says to Ezekiel (and to us preachers), “Preach to the bones and say to them….” The Lord says, “I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.” In “Announce to Every Caesar: God Is Not Dead,” William Barber preaches with the cadences and boldness of an African American tradition that confronts the power and corruption of contemporary Caesars with a fearless proclamation. We hear in Barber’s sermon the echoes, the voices, of those who declared in the face of slavery and Jim Crow and bulging prisons—God is not dead! Caesar may still live, but “the resurrection means that God has granted to life possibilities that exceed what looks possible right now. The resurrection means that God is invincible over the powers of death. …Touch your neighbors and say, “Neighbor! Ain’t no chains holding me! God is not dead!”
Jim Lowry offers an Easter poem—of “hope all bathed in the light that is not overcome.” Mark Ramsey and Derek Redwine take up the challenge of preaching Easter resurrection in the Age of Twitter. They identify “at least four lessons that Twitter can teach us about preaching Easter, and they all intersect in how the Easter message is heard today in a world like ours.” Jason Byassee, drawing on recent studies of clergy health, offers insights on Easter preaching to those of us who are stressed, overweight, and generally “bad off.” Valarie Bridgeman plunges into “Fears Within and Without” for “Easter Preaching to the Fearful.” Finally, Bill Arnold puts Jon Meacham’s The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels alongside Diana Butler Bass’s Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks in order to provide insights and encouragement for those called to preach the resurrection of Jesus in the Age of Trump. And so with fear and trembling, we dare to declare the dazzling news that what we could not do for ourselves, God has done for us.