Sunday, September 9, 2012

Theology of Preaching

Having been to two separate services today at two different churches that I love very much, I came away better informed through the “word” portions of the services but with the feeling that maybe I hadn’t been preached to. Far and away both presentations were edifying and wise, giving me food for thought and helpful instruction. Teaching and informed sharing are fine, but where is the proclamation? Isn’t a Christian worship service about something more than getting some information? Don’t we believe in the mysterium tremendum of the Godhead, present with us and among us and through us? Isn’t that the main event?

It’s obvious (or at least I think it should be) that the ministry of the sacrament is a holy event of entering God’s presence and coming face to face with him in the body and blood of Christ. When we take communion, we’re enacting a ritual to which Jesus attached a promise. We are joining ourselves to him. Sometimes in sacramental theology the eucharist is called a “means of grace”--God is showing up in a special way as we commemorate the atoning death of Christ. We are invited together into the holy of holies, gathered all in the presence of the Lord.

I think that our theology of preaching should be something analogous to this. Preaching distinguishes itself from teaching by going beyond simple instruction to proclaim the nearness and relevance of God to the listeners. Like the ministry of the sacrament, the preacher invites the hearers to meet with God, to see God in the text and understand the invitation that is being given to engage with him through the Christian worship service. Preaching isn’t primarily about catechesis, but igniting the audience’s existential recognition that God is in the room with them and wants their attention. Like the ministry of the sacrament, preaching instigates the audience to engage their hearts and minds with the living presence of the king.

Preaching also compels the audience to the same sacramental vocation--bringing as many people as possible into communion with the living God.

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