Perhaps it was John Wesley who observed that a preacher has only a few things to say, only a few sermons to preach, and that the task of preaching is a matter of addressing in newly creative and energetic ways the few essential themes. After four decades of preaching, I’m ready to agree. The few sermons we all have are related to the basic questions people ask—about guilt and grace, forgiveness and restoration, life and death, the reality of evil and suffering and the goodness of God.
The lectionary Psalm for the second Sunday in January was Psalm 29: “The voice of the Lord is over the water.” Those words powerfully intersected with the news of the horrific deaths and suffering caused by the tsunami in South Asia. They present us clearly with the questions that are on the minds of so many: Why did God do this or allow this to happen? Where was God? What is God? Such questions lurk also in calmer times, beneath the surface of comfortable lives.