Saturday, July 20, 2019
Do we value a sermon too highly. . .
The reality is that Protestantism has only the sermon and without sacraments must rely upon the sermon, entertainment style music, and a quasi-sacramental idea of prayer to fill the void. That is not who Lutherans are. We do not tilt the scales of sermon over sacrament or sacrament over sermon but believe both are essential too the Divine Service. We do not choose and we do not expect those in the pews to choose. Part of the impetus of the Reformation was the inattention to the sermon -- not in craft but in content and the fact that it was both incidental to the mass as well as inconsistent with the Gospel (too often merely a moral address designed to improve behavior). We Lutherans love to preach and we love the Sacrament and if there is a Lutheran innovation it is that sermon and Sacrament belong TOGETHER.
But the reality is that the sermon is supposed to be important to Rome as well. The papal sermons are not incidental little devotional asides but the world listens, especially on Christmas and Easter. The history of Christianity shows great and profound preachers, one who was known as Golden Throat in part for his preaching zeal and ability! The sermons of the fathers remain some of the most profound doctrinal as well as devotional literature of Christianity. We have an abundant record of preaching from the earliest days (Acts and the preaching of Peter and Paul) right down to the present day. To bemoan the importance placed upon the sermon by this Lutheran and this blog is to ignore Roman Catholic history and to betray the importance of preaching in the Church, even though sometimes it is forgotten or neglected. Every great time of renewal has been accompanied by great preaching and teaching. It is no less true and needed for our age and time than for the days before.
In the end I think it is rather foolish to try and pit one against the other or to complain about the attention given to the sermon. Rome is suffering today in part because of the decline of the preaching and teaching tradition. Rome's glory days were accompanied by great preachers and great preaching (think Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen). It is the same for Lutherans. We are a profoundly sacramental communion and yet when preaching has suffered, we have suffered -- just as we have also suffered when the Sacrament has been neglected or treated as secondary or optional. What this blog agitates for is nothing less that the full measure of liturgical renewal with attention give to reverent liturgy within the great tradition of the Church AND the renewal of Biblical preaching, in which the whole counsel of God's Word is proclaimed. Only a fool would pit one against the other or presume that we need one but do not need the other. The Lord has given us both.