In an article to pastors, Herman Sasse discusses the vital question of the ministry of all ages: “What shall I preach?” And it is a question put to the congregation’s divine ministry, “What will we come to listen to?” Luther’s answer was, “There is one thing to preach, the wisdom of the cross!”
We know, at First Lutheran, that the wisdom of the cross, the word of the cross, is a great stumbling block to the world. But it is the proper content of Christian preaching. It is the Gospel itself. And therefore we will preach it, without finding a “middle ground” between the needs of people, and the preaching of the cross.
To many this seems a very negative preaching. “Aren’t we limiting the preaching with our focus on the cross?” The answer is, No! To focus on the preaching of the cross does not mean that we shrink the church year to Good Friday. We believe that one cannot understand Christmas, Easter, or Pentecost without Good Friday. Luther was, alongside of Irenaeus and Athanasius, one of the great theologians of the incarnation.
Luther was that because he saw the cross behind the manger. He understood the victory of Easter as well as any theologian of the Eastern Church. But he understood it because he understood it as the victory of the Crucified. The same can be said of his understanding of the activity of the Holy Ghost. It is always the cross which illuminates all chapters of theology because the deepest nature of revelation is hidden in the cross.
So, you can ask, don't we preach about the incarnation or the resurrection? And what about the Holy Spirit? Yes we do, and we have a lot to say about all of this and about the creation. But, as we said in the previous paragraph, we cannot understand any of this if we do not understand what happened on the cross. Only then does the work of the Holy Spirit make sense, and only then the resurrection is that of the Crucified. It is Jesus the Crucified who is the Victor over death.
As Lutherans we do not see the theology of the cross as just one of many theories of how we can approach the Bible. With Luther we believe this to be the correct preaching of the Gospel, with which the Church of Christ stands and falls. (See Hermann Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors 18).