Sunday, April 18, 2010

Be An Ananias

I heard a good sermon talk about being a helper in a whole host of situations and therefore being an Ananias to others as well as remembering those who were an Ananias to you.  It was a great pep talk, well written and well delivered, based clearly upon Acts 9 but absent of the Gospel and of any meaningful mention of Jesus.  Now the setting could have been any Lutheran congregation (regardless of Synod) but the actual place is irrelevant.  The point is what Jeff Gibbs was talking about at the COWO POWOW in St. Louis in January ( you can read this HERE).

Gibbs was talking about the crisis in preaching.  On one hand we have preachers who give the same sermon week after week in which the cross is proclaimed but little application given to the issues of life -- only to the hope of heaven.  On the other, we have preachers who speak only about the issues of this life (from the liberal agenda of a green earth to a family agenda of how to have a better marriage, raise better kids, get a better job, etc) with little real talk of sin and death, redemption and salvation.  In both cases the preacher is not making the grade (obviously I would prefer the first failing to the latter but both are failing in the preaching task).  In addition we have preachers who ignore the lectionary and preach topic sermons or sermon series in which the liturgy and the sermon are disconnected from each other and it prevents the people from seeing how the proclamation flows from within the liturgy as is natural and faithful to both.

So we have a great task ahead in liturgical education and formation but we dare not neglect the renewal of the sermon as integral part and flowing from the liturgical celebration.  It is not ideal, I grant you, but where the liturgy is faithful the Gospel will be faithfully proclaimed even if the sermon misses the mark.  In the case I mentioned above, the Gospel was proclaimed in the hymns and choir anthem.  Even so, if you had been sitting there without benefit of a formed faith and liturgical experience, you would probably have missed it and assumed that the Gospel was just as much about being nice and helping as it was about the specific word to forgive sins, open the door to heaven, and enable a baptismal vocation to serve the Kingdom of God. 

Just an observation on a Sunday morning sitting in the pew....

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