14 August 2007

On Preaching

From a letter to a friend about preaching:

A real problem - which the much-maligned Caemerer noted - is that you cannot preach the Gospel without preaching the Kerygma. The Gospel is not just the results of the Kerygma: the sinner's justification. Remember Walther's point about preaching on faith without ever mentioning faith, because you preach faith into people by proclaiming Christ? Same point about justification. God justifies sinners not through preaching on justification but through the faith engendering preaching of Christ - He for us men and for our salvation was born of the blessed, glorious, and ever-Virgin Mary, who in that flesh offered up to the Father a ransom for the whole race of men, and in His risen body has become the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him, that is, for all who are joined into union with Him through saving faith and so are covered with His wrath-of-God-shielding-blood and who grow constantly in their union with Him via the gift of the Spirit (Luther's grace and gift in grace).

I have said for some years that what we face in the LCMS is not actually at root a liturgical crisis. The liturgical crisis is the result of the preaching crisis. Fix the preaching of the Gospel - have a real renewal of the proclamation - and the liturgy literally fixes itself. A certain proclamation naturally calls for a reverent and joyful Eucharistic celebration.

St. Paul could insist that He knew only Christ and Him Crucified as the content of His preaching and yet could preach that Crucified Christ in such a way as to gather up all of life and let it be illumined by Him so that from marriage to master-slave relations, from fights in the churches to rank heresy, he learned to counter everything by simply seeking one thing: "that Christ be formed in you" and travailing until it happened. We pastors need some more travailing and greater clarity on what the preaching is seeking to accomplish. If we remembered every time we stepped into the pulpit that the final goal of every sermon is that Christ be formed in the hearers, that they come to find their life in Him and learn to live their lives with Him as fragrant offerings and sacrifices to God - I think we'd have a genuine renewal of proclamation among us!

10 comments:

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Amen. God grant it. :)

Fraser Pearce said...

An encouraging post - thanks.

CaptainCatechism said...

Good stuff. You sound like my Hom profs.

CC

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Running around Ireland here, I've seen several beautiful Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland (anglican) churches. I saw a rather lovely Dominican Mass on St. Lawerence's Day. Yet the thing in, things all shifted off of the proclamation of the Cross. Rome had some. . . but then lots of other junk. I hit 4 beautiful Anglican churches, and narry a crucifix. Both Churches with very pretty liturgies - yet lack of preaching.

This is probably why Luther was so focused on Preaching as the focus of the service.

Christopher Palo said...

I am troubled by the implications that the liturgy is somehow incomplete or insufficient without a pastor or priest giving a sermon. The Liturgy is so much bigger than that and needs no augmentation nor substracton. If someone is having problems at an old Roman mass or Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom because there was no sermon, then he is not paying enough attention or needs to be catechized outside of that time when we Christians come together in the Church to give thanks to our Lord and beseech Him for His mercy. Just MHO.

William Weedon said...

Christopher,

A challenge for you: Can you find me any proof that in the time of St. John Chrysostom, the Sunday Liturgy was ever celebrated without a sermon? In fact, if you check it out, you'll find that it was not uncommon in the Great Church to have MORE than a single sermon during one Sunday liturgy, but I do not believe you will find even one Sunday liturgy being held without the preaching.

Christopher Palo said...

I will certainly concede that St John Chrysostom preached often from Hagia Sophia and was truly deserving of his title "golden-mouthed." But aside from that, can you find me any evidence that St. John Chrysostom or any other Eastern Orthodox Priest/monk/theologian suggested that the Liturgy stands or falls because of a sermon?

William Weedon said...

Christopher,

It was certainly the case that the great age in which the liturgies took their classic shape were also the great ages of preaching. Without the preaching of the Gospel, the faith can be reduced to something like the mystery cults of old. Without the celebration of the Sacrament, preaching becomes just information and borders on gnosticism. The liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Sacrament belong together with the Sermon uniting them. God's people deserve no less: "Woe unto me" said the Apostle Paul, "if I don't celebrate the liturgy?" Um. No. "If I don't preach the Gospel!"

I really think on this point Hermann Sasse was right on: it is not enough to venerate the icon of St. John Chrysostom; his example is to be followed. Preaching and Divine Liturgy should not be set against each other, but the Lord's Day should find the Christian congregation enjoying the rich bounty of BOTH. That is historic Christian pattern and further it is also a truism that every age that lifted the one above the other, setting them out of balance, belongs to the inferior ages of the Church. The great ages are when they stood together!

William Weedon said...

Thanks Fraser and Captain Catechism, and also Eric - blessings on your honeymoon! The glories of Erie!!! Have you kissed Blarney? When do you all return?

Christopher Palo said...

The Liturgy is the proclamation of the Gospel. Again, suggesting that if there is no sermon during the Liturgy without specifically mentioning Christ on the Cross, or any sermon at all, that there is no Gospel is a frequent attack leveled against the Orthodox, espeically by Pr. Wilken of Issues, etc.

Preaching and the Liturgy are not one and the same. Paul does preach Christ crucified, but the Liturgy proclaims that just as well, especially in the Anaphora of the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, which, I regret we don't celebrate more than 10 times a year.