Today is an important day for the Academy of Preachers. The sermon videos from the 2013 National Festival are now available on our YouTube channel. Registration is now open for the 2013 Regional and 2014 National Festivals of Young Preachers. Our GOSPEL SLAM web site goes live today. All of these are very significant signs of progress for the Academy of Preachers.
But these things, like so much else happening in the world this week, are overshadowed by the appointment of the world’s most influential preacher.
His name is Francis: his new name, that is. He has an old name, that people in Argentina knew, that people in the Vatican knew; but many will only know him by this new-yet-old name: Francis. Pope Francis.
I applaud his selection. He is non-European. He is a simple man. He cares about ordinary people in the far-away corners of the world, especially the poor and the marginalized.
Yes, I would prefer a Pope more progressive on some issues; and I suspect that many decision-makers in the Roman Catholic Church have as their primary concern the administrative and operational mess at the Vatican. I understand that.
But regardless of his particular mix of attitudes and aptitudes, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rome is the most prominent Christian in the world and the most important Christian preacher in the world. What he says matters; how he interprets Scripture matters; how he connects with people matters; how he envisions Christian living in the modern world matters. And for all these reasons, he matters, even to those of us not in the Roman Catholic Church, and even to those who target the Pope as the anti-Christ.
If his first address in the Sistine Chapel is any indication, the preaching of Francis will be simple, straightforward, strong, personable, spiritual, measured, and practical. I predict his preaching will be well-received. He is not a scholar like Benedict XVI; he is not a charismatic super-star like John Paul II.
See what you think of his first sermon: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/03/14/pope_francis:_1st_homily_%28full_text%29/en1-673526
We need good preachers in the world. Christians of all kinds are desperate for better preaching. The evangelization of our world with the good news of God’s reign depends, at least in part, upon the preaching of the word of God. Yes, there is a demand for grass-roots organization, for social ministry, for political vision, for intellectual vigor, for pastoral care, even for administrative skill; but above it all and around it all is the need for preaching, for the able and attractive spoken word presentation of the will and way of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, the gospels record, came preaching, and so should the Pope, and so should we. God bless all the gospel preachers around the world. It is not an easy task.