A Living Hope: First Peter as a Model for Preaching Eschatology in the 21st Century Open Access

Scharf, Douglas (Spring 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/cf95jb495?locale=en
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Abstract

Eschatology plays a central role in the church’s interpretation of Scripture and deeply shapes the liturgical practices of the Christian community; and yet, there exists a noticeable lack of eschatological preaching within many contemporary Christian congregations. In the midst of an increasing secular cultural context, there remains a relatively constant belief in heaven and, in recent years, an apparent resurgence of interest in the possibilities that exist beyond the horizon of our present reality. The church would presumably be well-equipped to respond to this resurgent interest concerning the future of the world. Yet despite the depth and sophistication of scriptural and liturgical traditions, many Christian congregations seem ill-equipped to join the cultural conversation about our future hope. This present project will demonstrate that in order for the church to offer a compelling narrative about the future – one that has the capacity to renew and transform lives – it must reclaim its eschatological voice, principally through the ministry of preaching.  Specifically, my argument will focus on the New Testament Epistle of First Peter as a model for preaching eschatology in the twenty-first century. Through an ethnographic study of one Episcopal congregation and an exegetical analysis of portions of First Peter, I will explore four deficiencies in eschatological thinking and living. These four deficiencies include a lack of a clear telosor goal of the Christian life; confusion regarding the role of heaven within Christian eschatology; misunderstanding concerning the implications of eschatology for this world; and difficulty connecting eschatology to daily life. The final section of this project presents four possible trajectories for preaching and the work of reclaiming our eschatological voice in Christian proclamation.

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