Friday, November 14, 2014
The preaching craft. . .
What impresses me about sermons are two things -- on the one hand I look for the way the text is both pulled out of and read back into the rest of Scripture. On the other hand, I look for the way in which the preacher has used language in presenting both what the Word of the Lord says and applying that Word to the hearer. I am not impressed with novelty. I do not expect to hear something new in sermons (when you hear or read many sermons it is hard to find new things). I do expect to hear the Gospel spoken in fresh ways (do not mistake this, however, for relevance -- relevance is determined by my need and by the gift and blessing of the Word to answer my need of forgiveness, life, and salvation).
I already owned and enjoyed the first volume of Pr. David Peterson's sermons, Thy Kingdom Come, so it was with great joy I received a copy of his newest volume of sermons, this time for the Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany seasons. God With Us is a wonderful volume and it gets the preacher going for these seasons so quickly to be upon us.
Preaching can be both feasting and fasting. At times the words flow and at other times they do not. For this reason alone, it is helpful for the preacher to feast upon the rich food of another's well crafted and faithful application of the text. I heartily encourage the purchase of the newest volume (and the previous volume, if you do not already have it). Order both here.
Law preaching is some of the most difficult. We preachers find it hard to speak to people the hard words of the Lord. If for no other reason than to discover how well the Law can be preached, this volume of sermons is worthy. We find it too easy to preach to imaginary sins or sins that do not touch close to home. Pr. Peterson excels in laying bare the soul before the unbending gaze of the Law. Everyone who sins is a prisoner of his lust. . . He will not pretend as if everything is okay. . . And just when he has exposed my captivity to desire and my wish to pretend everything is fine, Pr. Peterson enters into with the sweet balm of the Gospel. God became man to be your brother. The Father rejected the Son on the cross in order to adopt you into His household. . . and if that were not enough, He bids you come, bask in His grace, hear His life-giving, life changing words. . .
If we stop feeling the Law, we lose the Gospel. First comes the rebuke, then comes the calming of the storm. First comes the cross, then comes the glory. . . No, Pr. Peterson has it exactly right. I am my own worst judge of my preaching -- too close to see and hear myself objectively -- but I know a good sermon when I see or hear it. (And that is the benefit -- some of these sermons are available for you to hear on the Redeemer Lutheran Church website.) Better preaching begins by reading sermons and hearing them and this is one good place to start.