I recently sat with a new friend who invited me to coffee by first asking, "How do you feel about disagreement?" Mind you, his question came just a few minutes after I preached a sermon that included John 3:16 so I was utterly intrigued. The next thing I knew, we were chatting over coffee and disagreeing about preaching. What he asked, "Why don't Lutheran preachers exhort to faith?" What I heard, "Why don't Lutheran preachers ask people to agree with an orderly list of theological ideas that equal faith?" My response to his question is as simple as it is complicated. "Preaching evokes faith," I said.
What's the difference? The difference is a distinction about where faith comes from. If I say that I agree with a list of ideas about God then faith is an intellectual "yes" that I dredge up from inside of myself. However, faith generated by God, by the shattering of me in the shadow of the cross, comes from outside of myself. [More about the cross in future posts]. In this light, a preacher points me to the cross and it is from there that faith is evoked, pulled, generated, etc., as a mystery of God's work in me.
Why does it matter? Because it's about what God is doing, not what I am doing. I can never do enough, say enough or be enough to make my way to God. God is then the one who evokes faith.