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PREACHING THE GOSPEL

PREACHING
 

A minister said he was used to writing essays, but reading an essay-like script from the pulpit didn’t seem to get him anywhere. What could he do? Learn in Part I of this book how to write in a style suitable for speaking. How does he do that? It’s all there: phrasing, punctuating, paragraphing – ready for preaching. 

Having learnt the art in Part I, what does a minister do at a funeral? There is no set text for the usual style of presentation: just in front of him, people in great need. As is described in Part II, start to trace the events of the deceased person’s life in such a way that mourners will then be led into the wonders of the gospel. 

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ISBN:   978-1-921919-85-5
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 128
Genre: Religion/ Non Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins

Author: Peter Rudge
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2013
Language: English

 

THE AUTHOR AND HIS BOOK

 

That part of the biography of the Reverend Peter Rudge that is relevant to the publication of this book is that he is a Tasmanian who was born in 1927; he was trained for the ministry of the Anglican Church at St Michael’s House in Adelaide and he was ordained priest in 1953. He then spent ten years serving in various parishes in the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn. It was in that period that he learnt the art of preaching at funeral services but unfortunately it was not until after those years of frequent and regular preaching that he acquired the skills of preparing sermons in the form of blank verse. 

In the many years that followed when he was in Christian service beyond normal parish and diocesan life, he always made himself available to the rectors of the parishes in which he lived; and it was from his responses to their invitations to preach that the sample sermons in Part I are derived. However, many of the sermons in Part II originated from contexts well beyond the normal reach of Christian ministry. 

He began to write this book when he was in his 80s after he realised, after listening to many sermons in the meantime, that many ministers were unaware of the precepts about composing the script and preaching at funerals. The first part meant the retracing of his own learning experience in composing in blank verse. The writing of the second part arose from his dissatisfaction with a funeral service which he attended in which the gospel seemed to be missing; memories then came flooding back of situations where the threads of people’s lives had been woven together to great effect. For both parts, it was then a matter of selecting samples from a comprehensive file of sermons that had been kept.  

The outcome is this book which provides an easily accessible guide to learning the lessons he acquired the hard way about composing sermons in blank verse and weaving together the threads of a person’s life for use at funerals. Newcomers may start in this way, but ministers who have a well-established routine in preparing sermons are invited to make the change, as the author did. 

His greater claim to fame was the 1968 publication of his Ministry and Management which was based on his PhD thesis at Leeds University. It still regarded as the pioneer work on management in the church. It was based on the linking together of his qualifications at the University of Tasmania – Bachelor of Commerce and Diploma of Public Administration – with the theology of his training for the ministry and parish experience. It was the springboard for a career as a management consultant in churches and Christian bodies. Colleagues in England are planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication in 2018. 

Further details of his biography and his other writings can be found on his website www.corat.org.

CHAPTER 1

 

PREACHING THE GOSPEL (PART SAMPLE)

 

 

The gospel? There is one gospel, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, there are four presentations of the gospel: by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and each does so in his own distinctive way.

 

Matthew begins with ‘An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah’ (Mt 1:1) and records the ministry and teaching of Jesus unto just short of his ascension. Luke, in his second volume, The Acts of the Apostles, indicates the content of his first: ‘All that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven’ (Acts 1:1-2a). John begins with the role of the Word in creation, his taking flesh, and then details of the life of Jesus, so many that ‘the world could not contain the books that would be written’ (Jn 21:25). Mark says simply and pointedly: ‘The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ (Mk 1:1).

 

Note Mark’s use of the term ‘good news’ as a synonym for the gospel, as indicated in the margin of the New Revised Standard Version. The same term is used in the message of the angel to the shepherds about the birth of Jesus, though The Authorised Version refers to good tidings as an alternative. The Greek original is euaggelion, or euaggelion in our alphabet; from the Greek comes our word evangel, a less common alternative to gospel, though the root is often seen in the term evangelist as one who preaches the evangel.

(In a world where there is so much bad news, it seems strange that so many people reject or ignore the good news. Is it because Christianity has not been presented as good news?)

 

Preaching the gospel? Jesus did it; he commanded his disciples to do the same; the apostles did so; and all called to the ministry of the church have the same obligation.

 

The preaching of Jesus was preceded by that of John the Baptist who proclaimed, not the gospel, but a baptism of repentance. Soon after the baptism and the arrest of John, Mark records that Jesus began proclaiming the good news of God (Mk 3:14); Matthew follows suit (Mt 4:17), but Luke introduces the preaching in a distinctive and definitive way. It took place in the synagogue at Nazareth.

 

From the scroll of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1-2a), Jesus read:

 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

 

Jesus then claimed these words for himself: ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ (Lk 4:21). Thus he began his preaching of the gospel; it is spoken of many times by the first three gospel writers. One of the most notable occasions refers back to the Isaiah passage. John the Baptist, in prison, inquired whether Jesus was the one who was to come. In his response, Jesus’ words included several phrases from those quoted in the synagogue at Nazareth, including: ‘the poor have good news brought to them’ (Mt 11:5).

 

When Jesus appointed his twelve disciples, he commanded them to preach the gospel. The longest list of instructions is in Matthew, the first of which is: ‘As you go, proclaim the good news. The kingdom of heaven has come near’ (Mt 10:7). A briefer form is in Mark 3:14 and Luke 9:2. The same commission is repeated shortly before his ascension (Mk 16:15; Lk 24:47).

 

The Acts of the Apostles records what they did. Immediately after the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, Peter was the first of the apostles to respond; his address is in Acts 2:14-36. Philip, as told in Acts 8, brought the word to Samaria and eventually as far as Caesarea. In the remainder of the book, the focus is upon the preaching of Paul who felt the burden of the responsibility very personally: ‘If I proclaim the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe is me if I do not proclaim the gospel’ (I Cor 9:16).

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