Thursday, March 3, 2011

What are you trying to do

I've been thinking about preaching a bit lately. I have a question for all those of you out there who are preachers.

What are you trying to do?

Seriously. What are you trying to do? When you begin to write your sermon, what are you hoping to accomplish, what shapes the way you approach the text of Holy Scripture, what shapes what insights and thoughts that you bring forth? What are you trying to do?

Are you trying to fix your people?

Are you trying to impress them so they'll come back next week?

Are you trying to show them the nuances of the Scriptures that they might have missed?

What are you trying to do?

There are times I will read or watch a sermon on line, and that will be my thought - what is this pastor trying to do, what is he hoping to accomplish. And of course, there are a whole sort of mixed motivation in preaching... my sinful ego wants my congregation to "like" my sermon... but I try to beat that down when I write. There are times I want to drop the hammer, prove my point to them. Again, I don't know how good that is.

I have a simple thought about what we should be trying to do, and it is two fold.

1. Proclaim what the text says and teaches about your hearers' (and you yourself hear as well) sinfulness.
2. Proclaim the forgiveness and deliverance from Christ that the text shows.

Nothing more, nothing less.

I don't need to be interesting or witty or tell a neat story or be engaging (where engaging means I throw a bunch of folksie tripe in). I don't need to demonstrate my superior knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. I don't need to wow the people with my "edumacation" or wisdom.

Simply this - behold what the text says about sin and Christ, about Law and Gospel. This text is also speaking about you, dear listener.

That's it. That's what every sermon should be doing - applying the Law and Gospel of the text directly onto the people there.

And then let those do their work.

The Law, where it needs to, will curb, will crush, will guide. The Gospel will revive, strengthen, and encourage and give life.

I don't need to curb or crush or guide or enliven - I simply need to see that I show that this text does indeed rest upon you... or in other words, I simply am to proclaim.

And really, when it boils down to it - that's all I really want in a sermon as well.


Phillip said...

I think pastors should follow Pr. Tiews model of preaching. Explicitly say this is the Law and this is the Gospel. It's not oratorically brilliant, but it proclaims the Law and the Gospel far better than most.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I think you hit on something that is quite important, Phillip. Too often we will worry about "rhetorical brilliance" - or at least rhetorical coolness - we want something that sounds good.

That's not the point - the point is are you proclaiming Law and Gospel clearly. Rhetoric should be the servant of the preacher, not the goal by which one impresses.