“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).
I’ve been your pastor for almost five years now. It’s hard to believe the time has gone so fast. I still think of myself as being fairly new here.
I’m finding that one of the challenges of not being new anymore is the feeling that I’ve already said everything I have to say. That’s probably not completely true, and I’m still learning new things, but I know I’m saying things I’ve already said before. Sometimes I might even say them in the same way. Having gone through the lectionary (a three-year rotation) at least once, I find myself thinking, I’ve already preached this text before. How can I make it different? Sometimes, when I write a sermon on a text I’ve already preached before, it comes out fairly similar. In a few cases, I’ve even taken a previous sermon and rewritten it. Admittedly, this feels a little bit lazy, but it gives me the opportunity to look at it with fresh eyes. I might think it was pretty good the first time, but the second time, I see several parts that should be replaced.
Other times, two different sermons on two different texts come out very similar. This is because the themes of those texts overlap. There is a unified Christian doctrine that runs throughout Scripture. Different books might have different styles and emphases, but the doctrine is the same. Isaiah and John and Moses and Paul all taught the same doctrine, because it was inspired by the same Holy Spirit.
So, as I endeavor to teach the Scriptures faithfully, I find that I repeat myself. I don’t know if any of you are as conscious of this as I am. No one yet has said, “You already said that once; no need to say it again.” Not everything can be new; not everything should be new, because there is only one truth, but there are an infinite number of lies.
So why am I telling you all this? It’s not that I need to explain myself. It’s that you should expect to hear the same doctrine, not just multiple times throughout the three-year rotation, but every single time we meet together. It’s appropriate that we talk about Law and Gospel, the atonement, the Trinity, justification, vocation, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Resurrection of the Dead over and over and over again.
If anything, you should be more skeptical when you hear something new. Ideally, you’ve been hearing this same Christian doctrine your entire lives. You might hear something that’s new to you. And I hope you won’t just blow me off if I say something that challenges you. I hope you will wrestle with it, check it against Scripture, and discuss it with me. So something might be new to you, but if it’s new to the Church, it’s probably error. My job is to teach what accords with sound doctrine. Your job is to hold me to that. For there is one true Christian doctrine. It teaches us salvation, it teaches us to love our neighbors, and it preserves us in this Christian faith.
The peace of Christ be with you all,