Sunday, September 28, 2014
Too Much Preaching. . .
I heard one more rant by someone from the pew (not in my own parish, mind you) complaining about too much preaching. In this case the preacher had the audacity to preach nearly 20 minutes. The rebuke he received was quick and hard. Get into the pulpit and get it done and get out. That was the advice to the naysayer who found the preacher taking too long.
As I thought about it, I wondered first of all who might be saying this of me. Once I got over that, I thought of the times I might have thought this while sitting on the receiving end of the sermon. But that soon gave way and I began to think instead of just how little preaching the average Christian (you may insert Lutheran) actually receives.
In effect the Devil is preaching to us all the time. He preaches through media in which our values our trashed, faith is ridiculed, and sin is justified. He preaches through the culture in which God's place is diminished and our own places enhanced so that everything is judged by our desires, delights, and disappointments. The Devil preaches to us through temptation, secret and hidden, and through public pressure, open and obvious. He preaches to us all the time and our own sinful self is happy to hear and to listen to everything the Devil preaches.
One lousy sermon a week, perhaps 15-17 minutes at that, is hardly enough to counter the Devil's preaching which we hear day in and day out, in the darkness of our dreams, and in the witness of the world around us. We complain about too much preaching, about sermons too long, but we hear hardly enough to make any real difference! We need to hear more preaching!
As I have written before, the participation in the Daily Offices has subsided and our people hear sermons basically one day a week. It is a far cry from other eras in which people heard a handful or more sermons a week and yet we live in an age in which the assaults of the evil one are more seductive, the influence more pervasive, and the presence more subtle.
If our people are supplementing the preaching with books like 40 Days of Purpose or Your Best Life Now, little will help them endure the onslaught of a world and a mindset so acutely focused upon the moment and upon feelings as the present day. No, we need meat. We need something to be chewed over and wrestled with -- not a nice word or sentiment. We need preaching. For this reason the task of the preacher remains even more urgent, the press upon the preacher more powerful, and the faithfulness of the preacher more essential than ever before. The preacher dare not waste his time in the pulpit with anything less than the full counsel of God's Word faithfully applied and the people who hear him must not begrudge him the time to preach the Word in and out of season, faithfully, and forcefully. Our lives are literally hanging in the balance.