The History Theology And Practice Of Christian Worship - Part 9
In December 31 and January 7 we prayed the church's liturgy as it is written the the Lutheran Service Book (LSB). There were no obvious hiccups along the way. That's because the flow of the Service is the same as TLH, and because the wording and music are nearly identical. A few Thee's have been replaced by You's, and there is a slight difference in the wording of the Creed. I invite anyone has questions, comments or concerns about this transition they should to address them their pastor, who will answer them all thoroughly and patiently.
Today we cleaned up some issues from last week, and next week we will talk about the sermon and its place in liturgy.
Preaching is one of the most ancient Christian practices of worship of the One, True God. The speaking forth of God's Word, and the hearing of it. Both sides of the equation are necessary. It predates the New Testament. Noah was said to be "a preacher of righteousness." Solomon is called "the preacher" a 900 years before the birth of Christ.
Preaching is many things. It can instruct, inspire, teach, correct, coerce, call to action. But at its foundation Christian preaching is the imparting and opening up of God's Word to people. It comes in two main varieties: Law and Gospel.
The Law is that part of Christian teaching that has to do with condemnation of sin, and a call to repentance, correction, and a resolution to new life. It hold judgment and punishment before our eyes, and truth be told, we all need that. We all need to fear God, as well as love and trust in him. Our sinful nature, which Scripture says is "at enmity with God," (Romans 8:7) only understands the language of fear. And so the Law acts to suppress the wickedness of our sinful nature. Without that might word of God's Law implanted in our hearts at birth, the world would come to a screeching, homicidal halt.
The Gospel is the announcement, proclamation, and factual imparting of salvation in Christ to all who believe. As St. Paul Says, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the powor of God unto salvation to all who believe. First to the Jew, then to the Greek." (Romans 1:16) And as he says again, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." (Romans 10:17) The Gospel remits our sins, and cancels out all penalties due for our sins. It strengthens us, consoles us, and gives us hope in the darkest of nights. It bespeaks God's love, mercy, grace and peace for us, and assures us that he will always care for us, and that nothing will separate us from his life. (Romans 8:31-39)
Every preacher has his own style. God uses each one. The sermon event is not only determined by the text or subject matter, but by the man preaching it, who and what he is, and what gifts God has given him. Also by the circustances and needs of the listeners.
Much more could be said on the subject, but preaching is essential to God's people. It is not only the imparting of religious information, or the teaching, inspiring, reproving or strengthening of God's people. But we can say with confidence that the sermon, preached in accordance with Christian faith and practice, is God's Word. It is a divine prophecy spoken in the midst of God's people. It is the voice of God. Again, this assumes a sermon that is in keeping with Christian doctrine and practice; and not the preacher's personal opinions, views, experiences etc. No one comes to church to hear those. But to hear God.
For Lutherans, the ideal sermon recalls baptism, and gives God's people a hunger for the altar. It teaches. It inspires God's people to greater faith, and deeper understanding. It helps people re-order their lives so that the worship and service of God become their priority. It's an encouragement we all need, all the time.
Much more could be said. But let Luther's words from the Small Catechism suffice in his explanation of the 3rd Commandment. "Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy." What does this mean? "We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching or this Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it."