William Sloane Coffin once noted that just as there is ultimately only
one hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," there is also only one psalm,
the 23rd. You might select a different hymn, but the psalm that is on
the hearts and lips of most believers—and even those who reside at the
edges of our communities, emerging only on rare occasions—is the 23rd.
Every year we preachers eagerly look for help with the daunting challenge of preparing an Easter sermon. Never are we as acutely aware of our own limitations, intellectual and spiritual, as when we try to find words to express the reality that a dead man didn’t remain dead.
Randy Beckum, chaplain and vice-president of community formation at MidAmerica Nazarene University, was relieved of some of his duties for a “controversial sermon” he preached in chapel at the Olathe, Kansas, school. His audience was riled by the suggestion that Christians should take seriously Jesus’ injunction to love one’s enemies and by his questioning of Christians’ use of violence. MNU’s president issued a statement intended to protect academic freedom, but which had the effect of distancing the college from the teachings of Jesus: “At MidAmerica Nazarene University we encourage the exchange of ideas and individuals are free to express their individual perspective and opinions, even when those opinions may not reflect the official policy or practices of our university, our core values or our affiliations” (Patheos, March 6).