Sunday, April 28, 2019

What is the purpose of a Sermon?

I'm spending some time interacting with neighboring blogs before continuing some of my own series. Today I wanted to consider an issue raised at Conciliar Outpost about an Anglican's view of the purpose of a sermon. I'd encourage people to read the whole linked article but will sum up here enough for those who only read this continuation of the conversation. The linked post sees three main types of sermons as problems to be avoided: the moral to-do list, the call to social action (generally as political activism), and the academic lecture. It advocates this as the correct content of a sermon: 
The sermon is the preaching of Gospel to the congregation in a way that convicts them of sin while also preparing them for the Eucharist. A Lutheran may call this “Law/Gospel” preaching. There is a sense in which the sermon should destroy self-confidence in the hearer while also pointing them to the crucified Lord.
To be clear, the context is in a liturgical worship service, where the sermon is part of the bridge between reading 3 portions of Scripture -- the third of which is from one of the New Testament gospels -- and the Eucharist or Lord's Supper.

Again to be clear, I'm not writing this from any adversarial view of Anglicans or Lutherans.

But is that really what a sermon should be? Is there a one-size-fits-all answer to what a sermon should be, other than a faithful conveyance of the Word of God? The sermon should be faithful to the text being preached. What if the scripture reading for the day isn't intended to convict people of sin? How can it be faithful to the Scripture to insist that every sermon should serve to convict of sin when every scriptural reading does not? The sermon should serve as a means by which the shepherd feeds the sheep, as "Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word which comes from the mouth of the Lord."

The purpose of the sermon should be much the same as the purpose of the Scripture itself. In addition to the things already named, I can think of Scripture passages which also include the following among the right things accomplished by God's word:
  • Building faith
  • Encouragement
  • Gaining wisdom and understanding
  • Giving joy
  • Increasing knowledge of God
  • Renewal and regeneration
  • Comforting and strengthening God's people
 I expect there are many more. I'd be glad to hear of others.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

To Him, all are alive

When Jesus was in Jerusalem not long before his arrest, he said:
even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for to him all are alive. (Luke 20:37-37, with Jesus quoting and commenting on Exodus 3:6)
Today is the first time I celebrate Easter to commemorate Jesus' resurrection without my brother who, by his age, might have reasonably lived for decades to come. But God is God of the living. To him, all are alive. To God, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive. If to God all are alive, then to God my brother is alive. Resurrection and forgiveness: we're all sure to need them someday. Thanks be to God for his love in Christ Jesus.

He is risen indeed!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Lent and the Love of God

This week's Lent post is a response to the thoughts of Metacrock at his personal blog: Love: the Basis of Everything (expansion). Metacrock and I have several beliefs in common; the most important of those is that love is the core of God's nature. We find ourselves in agreement that love, as the nature of God, is the cause of creation and the basis of morality. More than that, we share common ground that love is the basis of morality because love is the basis of creation, and because it is the nature of God. God is the ground of existence; the ground of existence is love.

If the basis of our existence is the love of God, then breaking all ties with God amounts to cutting off the branch on which we sit. It's a fatal move, not because of some whimsical rule-system or vindictive payback, but because of the nature of our existence as contingent on God.

At one point Jesus told a parable describing God's love for people: a shepherd went looking for a missing sheep. In our days of city-dwelling and dwindling wilderness we do not think of the risk the shepherd would take to seek out a lost sheep. The wild was a dangerous place not just for the sheep, but possibly for the shepherd too.

Today marks the start of Holy Week: in the context of our broken relationship with God, it calls back to the time when Jesus knowingly stepped onto dangerous ground. Why did he have to die? Death is where all the missing sheep had gone, or would someday go.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Lent: Most Edifying Thing Heard Today

Over at Weedon's blog, the good pastor considers the account of Jesus and Barabbas. We can read that account and see a cruel and ironic twist that there were people who demanded for a murderer to be freed, and for a healer to be killed. The pastor suggests that these may be Jesus' thoughts:
You WANT Barabbas to be free. Love divine, all loves excelling.
It is what he came for: to set the captives free, and take away transgression.
We are Barabbas, are we not?