Why Preaching Is/Should Be Different

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23  The LORD says, The wise should not boast of their wisdom, nor the strong of their strength, nor the rich of their wealth. 24  If any want to boast, they should boast that they know and understand me, because my love is constant, and I do what is just and right. These are the things that please me. I, the LORD, have spoken. Jeremiah 9:23-24 (TEV)

Christian preaching does not proclaim “words”, but the Word, and the proclamation coincides with the very Person of Christ, ontologically open to the relationship with the Father and obedient to his will. Thus, an authentic service to the Word requires of the priest that he strive for deeper self-denial, to the point that he can say, with the Apostle, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”. The priest cannot consider himself “master” of the Word, but its servant. He is not the Word but, as John the Baptist, whose birth we are celebrating precisely today, proclaimed, he is the “voice” of the Word: “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mk 1:3).

For the priest, then, being the “voice” of the Word is not merely a functional aspect. On the contrary, it implies a substantial “losing of himself” in Christ, participating with his whole being in the mystery of Christ’s death and Resurrection: his understanding, his freedom, his will and the offering of his body as a living sacrifice (cf. Rm 12:1–2). Only participation in Christ’s sacrifice, in his kenosis, makes preaching authentic!  (1)

As I was doing research about the passage I am preaching from in Mark’s gospel on Sunday, I came across the above quotes.   I suppose it is odd for a Lutheran pastor to be quoting a Roman Catholic pope, but I will acknowledge the truth in his words about pastoral authenticity.

One of my mentors once told me that preaching is different than public speaking, That a pastor/priest who is a skilled at crafting a sermon may be a horrible public speaker.  And just because someone is a skilled public speaker, doesn’t mean that he will have the same effectiveness in a sanctuary that he does speaking at a conference or convention.

This is why, a speaker’s effectiveness depends on his strengths.  His practiced skill, his personal charisma, his training to control his audience.  It is a craft that can be sharpened and honed like a find knife blade.  While a pastor also needs to develop, our strength is found not in our skill and perfection, but from our brokenness, our despair, our desperate need for hope.

It’s not about how much Hebrew or Greek we know, or how much of the Bible we have memorized.  It’s about knowing God, and being so in awe of Him that we cannot help sharing that awe. We lose our “self” in His glory, in the healing that He brings into our lives, in the answer to our prayer to rip open heaven and come show us the mercy we need.

We find our lives and our message in our baptism, that incredible sacrament, where we first die with Christ, that we might live with Him.  We need to recall this repeatedly, daily, seeing that baptismal promise of God renewed, strengthening us.  We know and understand this first and foremost, this life He has given us, this journey we make with Him.

That is what causes the fire in our preaching, it is what must empower the message we share, that we know God does this, because He does it here. in our lives.  It is the blessing we have, that we can say with Paul,

“15 This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them, 16 but God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show his full patience in dealing with me, the worst of sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 To the eternal King, immortal and invisible, the only God—to him be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen!  1 Timothy 1:15-17 (TEV)

May our need for Jesus’ presence, and His answering that cry be revealed to those who we serve, in order that they will know He will answer their cries as well.  May that authenticity not frighten those who preach, but may they embrace it, that their people would know God’s faithfulness…to them.


(1)  Benedict XVI. (2013). General Audiences of Benedict XVI (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on December 2, 2014, in Devotions, Theology in Practice and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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