During my time as an undergraduate at St. Olaf College, while I struggled to figure out Lutheran preaching, I had a friend refer to Law/Gospel sermons as “Gonzo Preaching.” Now that I am older and more wise to the ways of the world, I realize that he was probably making a reference to Hunter S. Thompson and his concept of subjective, gonzo journalism. At the time, though, I thought it was reference to Gonzo, the Muppet.
Though I confess that Gonzo confuses me (what is he? a weevil?), I find him an apt patron saint for Law/Gospel preaching. What you may ask, could a species-confused Muppet have to do with Christian preaching?
Well, he’s ridiculous. And so is Law/Gospel preaching. It is not sensible; as St. Paul once put it, “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to gentiles. To paraphrase the late Gil Scott Heron, “Gonzo preaching does not go better with coke. Gonzo preaching does not fight the germs that cause bad breath.” In a world obsessed with action, Gonzo preaching maintains that God in Jesus Christ does all the work.
Against the trumpet calling all culture and social justice warriors to battle, Gonzo preaching says hang on a moment. Within even the most noble goal can lie the snare of self-justification. God’s work, our hands and our work, our hands resemble one another too closely for this preacher’s comfort. Rather, the mantra of the Gonzo preacher is “Christ’s work, Christ’s nail scarred hands, Christ’s body and blood for you.”
He’s an peculiar mascot, this blue Muppet. But he’s a fitting mascot for the peculiar job to which God has called his preachers.