Worshiping the Triune God: The Sermon

The last time we reflected on worship, we talked about the Prayer for Illumination.  As you may recall, we pray this prayer as we prepare to hear God’s Word read and proclaimed.  Then comes the Sermon/Message.  So, what is going on in this part of the worship service?  Having worshiped the Lord in song and prayer, we are ready to hear God speak to us through his word, which the sermon attempts to do.  This is an amazing reality, when you stop to think about it.  We worship a God who speaks to his people.  The question is: are we listening?  The sermon is a prime time to hear God speak through his ancient word. This points to one of the significant challenges of preaching: How can an ancient text speak to a modern people? As the late Pastor John Stott explains: to build a “bridge” between the ancient and modern world through the preaching of the Word is the goal of the preacher. (See Stott’s book, Between Two Worlds.) But it is a challenging one!  As Rev. Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. writes, “The weekly assignment to preach the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ is daunting.  Maybe half a million preachers got up to preach this past Sunday, and would like us to appreciate the hill they climbed.” (Reading for Preaching, 65)  Fair enough.  Preaching is a challenging task.  But what is the preacher trying to accomplish?  As Rev. Plantinga also says, “The preacher’s job is not just to repeat a text, but also to outfit it for the hearing of a congregation.  The preacher not only does in other words what the text does.  He also says in other words what it says, dressing it up or down, shaping and coloring and amplifying it in such a way that when people hear the preached text they hear God’s word to them.” (p. 3) So, this is a summary of what happens during the preaching of the word.  Now we are all invited to listen to the word proclaimed on Sunday morning, so we can get God’s story into our hearts, and live it out the rest of the week. Amen?