Editor’s Comments – Preaching the Law

[1] Lately, JLE’s editors have been dreaming up ways of helping parish pastors do their work. This month begins a three-part series related to liturgy, the first of which is on the theme of “Preaching the Law.” Here one might ask the obvious question — why start with preaching the Law?

[2] The answer, gentle readers, is, because JLE’s editors like nothing better than to wade into the midst of a serious disagreement which has ethical, ecclesiological, and doctrinal consequences. We have dealt with concerns over biblical interpretation relating to sexuality on more than one occasion in our pages. We have not talked as much about the nature of Law itself, though, which is another matter that goes to the heart of many of the differences in the ELCA. The statement that it is enough for the Church that the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered is not so straightforward when Gospel and Law are intertwined in different ways for different people.

[3] This month, JLE brings a sampling of preachers out of various contexts to illustrate how differently the preaching of the Law may be happening within the ELCA.

[4] Carl Toney begins with an article on preaching justice that sets the tone for interpreting key passages on justice and righteousness. Julian Gordy, bishop of the ELCA’s Southeast Synod, describes preaching the law in the Christ-haunted South, and suggests that the public witness of churches there should emphasize Gospel. Eric Waters, pastor at a large, growing church in Ohio, lays out clear direction on the demands his context makes about preaching the Law, the ultimate of which is that the preacher must turn the Law on him/herself. O. E. Brown, a prison chaplain, discusses preaching the Law to those who have broken the law, cautioning the reader not to play into the lawbreakers’ legalistic grasp of religion. Brooke Petersen provides a compelling account of preaching Law to a generation that has not been in the pews.

[5] This month we are also honored to continue a conversation begun by Mark Mattes, and publish Paul Hinlicky’s response to Mattes’s review of his book Paths Not Taken. John Pless revisits Wingren’s doctrine of vocation, and Craig Nessan shows us what J. Michael Reu can teach us about the Christian life.

Kaari Reierson

Kaari Reierson is the founding editor of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics and is the Chair of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics Advisory Council.