Friday, September 8, 2023

What is not said. . .

The esteemed Episcopal priest Fleming Rutledge asked the preacher if the resurrection had any real impact on the sermon preached or if he could preach the same sermon without Christ being raised from the dead.  Interesting thought.  It does remind me that often in the official documents of the Church as well as in preaching and teaching, what is not said is often as important as what is.

Count up the mentions of simple words like Jesus, faith, sin, forgiveness, etc. in a typical sermon and you might be surprised.  What is not said but presumed comes back to haunt the preacher.  What is not said because it is deemed untrue or unloving, might also give us pause.  I suspect that in the Church there is more talk around things than directly to the issues before us.  We are typically very wordy while Scripture is rather tight in its language.  

Likewise, it is easy for us to be verbose about what is wrong without giving equal time and attention to what is right -- that is to say, what it is that God has done about it.  It is not a faithful sermon that spends the whole time preaching the law of God in condemnation of sin, even rampant sin, without also preaching God's remedy to sin and calling the sinner to repentance and speaking mercy to that same sinner by proclaiming the cross.

What is not said is perhaps even more profound than what is said.  This is especially true for the way we address what it means to be people of the Word while at the same time treating the Eucharist as if it were an occasional snack added on for effect.  Or, perhaps, the way we treat how important the confession of the faith is while at the same time failing to confess what God does in placing His Word in water to transform the font into the life-giving womb in which that faith is born by the Spirit.

It might be a good thing for preachers to review their sermons and count up the mentions of such things as sin and forgiveness as well as the obvious mentions of the name of Jesus or an appeal to the cross.  But it would also be good for the Lutheran preacher to see how often he speaks of the Sacraments (baptism, absolution, and communion), of our baptismal vocation, of good works, and of endurance in a world unfriendly to the faith and faithful as well as to Christ.  It could be that our people are not hearing these things because we are not saying them.  

1 comment:

gamarquart said...

The words I would like to hear more often are:
Holy Spirit and
The Gospel, not followed by the word "but."
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart