Sermon as a Sacramental Attribute of the New Testament
The keynote address I gave at the St. Michael Conference in Detroit had the same name as this, and it will also appear in the Christmas issue of Gottesdienst. Here are some highlitghts.
How did the sermon, as we know it today, emerge from the common synagogue practice seen in the Scriptures? What changed from synagogue to church? Why did it change? The data concerning the worship of the synagogue when Jesus was walking the earth are sketchy, but we can gain some insight into it from the Gospels themselves.
In particular, the fourth chapter of St. Luke gives us a special case in which Jesus was not only present, but the central participant. The account of Luke 4:14-21 tells us that immediately after His temptation He “returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.”
Jesus is here said to have “taught” in the synagogues, rather than that He “preached” there. The practice of rabbinic teaching was likely of the same nature as rabbinic commentary on the Bible, also called midrash. The rabbis would comment on the Bible verse by verse, in much the same way as a modern Bible commentary. These comments were sometimes found in the margins of the Bible scrolls themselves. Jesus, who was recognized as a rabbi, and widely known, was expected to teach in the synagogues to which He went.
But now we are told of what happened in particular in Nazareth on the Sabbath day. It was “his custom” to go into the synagogue on the sabbath day and stand up to read. Then, “he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” According to these words, what was customary was the reading of a section of Scripture, followed by teaching on that section, i.e., midrash. But in this case, “all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.” Here, not only is the word for preaching introduced, but “gospel” (ευαγγέλιο). So Jesus takes up the mantle of teacher, but begins to preach, and as He does so He announces that the day of fulfillment has come. Here the word for preaching is used the context of fulfillment. Fulfillment is the new theme, inaugurated by Jesus’ appearance to teach in the synagogue. Here midrash is replaced by the sermon. Simply put, here He began to “preach” in the New Testament sense. Preaching begins with Jesus’ own preaching. Preaching essentially begins with the New Testament, first in the preaching of Jesus Himself, then in His apostles’ preaching, and thereupon in the phenomenon of preaching in the churches, it is fruitful to consider the place of the sermon as it became an integral part of the Divine Service.
Gospels, Epistles, and Sermons are all constituent parts of the Divine Service, and have been since Apostolic times.
The preaching of the Gospel was a radical departure from the worship life of Jews and of the synagogue. The New Testament is new, and this is according to Jesus’ death and resurrection, but also according to what he said. The Gospel is the opening and fulfilling of the Old Testament in the acceptable year of the Lord. The fulness of time has come (Galatians 4:4). The New Testament is that to which the Old Testament had been pointing and mysteriously portraying in advance. Now it has come, and is fully revealed.
When Jesus appeared to two of His disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-35), He expounded in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. He opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures. And sent them to preach, as his witnesses.
Much of patristic and medieval exegesis can be seen as a working out of how the concealment in the Old Testament and the revelation in the New are to be understood in accordance with the Messianic character of all Scripture. Fulfillment has come. The disciples exult about this, in John 16:29: “Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.”
The Apostles preached what they had from Jesus over the course of His three-year ministry. What the Apostles preached and wrote about was precisely the Christ revealed in the Gospels. The Epistles therefore depend on the Gospels for their own discourses and commentary, that is, on the events these Apostles themselves witnessed of Christ, the same events that are written in the Gospels. But they are authentic commentaries on the life of Christ. The fulness of the revelation has now arrived in Christ, and this has been made clear to them. This is the meaning of St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “By revelation he made known unto me the mystery . . . which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:3-5).
The same is true of the preaching of sermons today as is true of the Epistles, the only difference being that the authenticity of a sermon depends on its agreement with the apostolic words written. The difference between an Apostolic Epistle and a sermon is that a sermon is rightly called the Word of God if its content is consistent with the written revelation of God. It is called the Word of God in a derived sense, whereas an Epistle is the Word in a primary sense. In the early church, n many respects, the sermon was seen as being in the same genre as the Epistle.
Therefore what ought to happen in the crafting of a sermon is the continued passing on of the opening, teaching, and revealing of the full meaning of the Gospel, following this pattern, as well as a necessary verification that the sermon is fully in accord with the apostolic record. In this way we may rightly call the sermon the preached Word of God. This, then, makes it fitting that the sermon’s introduction and conclusion therefore be given the reply of “Amen,” which is the assertion of the hearers that they recognize the sermon for what it is.
+ Pastor Eckardt
Ushers:Jim Hornback, Steve Kraklow, Tom Wells
10/1 Sue Murphy
10/2 Diana Shreck
10/24 Eric Meaker
10/28 Carmen Sovanski
10/29 Svetlana Meaker
10/30 Sharon Hartz
11/11 Tara Wagenknecht
11/19 Steve Kraklow
11/20 Jewneel Walker
11/30 Charlene Sovanski
In Our Prayers
Our current list of prayer intentions at mass includes the names on the lists here following. To update the list please inform the pastor
in our parish:
Emilie Ricknell, Don and Sue Murphy, Linda Rowe, Sharon Hartz, John Sovanski, Sandra VerPlaetse, Allan Kraklow, Bea Harris, Debra Reeves, Grant Andreson, Dale Baker, Jewneel Walker, and Emmy Wear
and beyond our parish:
Anna, Katy, and Jody Rutowicz [Harris relations]
Julie Ross [Svetlana Meaker’s daughter]
Elizabeth Godke [Sharon Field’s mother]
Oneida Hendrickson [Ricknell relative]
Janice Hart [Judy Thompson’s sister]
Caleb Cleaver [Ricknells’ grandson]
Tim Newman [Shreck relation]
Theresa Moore [Ricknells’ niece]
Kathy Boeger [re Harrises]
Allison Leezer [relative of the Kraklows]
Shannon Watson [Jim’s daughter]
Yvette Baker [Dale Baker’s daughter-in-law]
Richard Heiden [Carol Eckardt’s father]
Jeff Lewis, Carol Eckardt’s brother in law
Pastor Jacob Sutton, and Pastor Justin Kane
in the military
Donny Appleman [at request of the Ricknells]
Richard Heiden [at request of the Eckardts]
Eli Wetzel, Traven Wetzel
Eric Verplaetse [Sandra’s grandson]
Jake Mahaffey, Trevor Shimmin, Shad Draminski
James and Ann Lee Armstrong
any unborn children in danger of abortion;
Debra Reeves’s children Rae Beth and Drew Wayne;
those suffering from unrest, persecution, and imprisonment in Iran, Pakistan, India, China, North Korea, and elsewhere.
Persecution Details: from www.persecution.net
Myanmar (Burma): As fighting between resistance forces and government soldiers in Myanmar intensifies, churches are frequently being targeted by the country's ruling military junta. In mid-September, the Mother of God Catholic Church in Mobye, Shan State, was seized.
Indonesia: Local officials have denied a group of Indonesian Christians the right to build a place of worship, even though the believers own the land. This situation has been taking place in a small city located near the capital.
Belarus: The New Life Church in Minsk has encountered opposition for many years since purchasing a former cowshed and converting it into a church building in 2002. After years of court battles, bailiffs forcibly entered the place of worship in February 2021 and evicted members who happened to be present during the raid. The building has since been sealed by government officials. Members of the church have instead met weekly in the parking lot outside the building, even during the coldest days of winter. Although officials had warned Pastor Goncharenko to cease the church's worship activities, the congregation members have continued to faithfully gather outside for the past 19 months. The Minsk City Administration and local police are now saying that the meetings are illegal, issuing new threats to liquidate the church in court. If that were indeed to take effect, the church would lose legal status and its leaders could face fines or up to two years in prison. Pastor Goncharenko has been summoned multiple times to have "preventative conversations" with officials, but both sides of this case stood firm. The pastor believes there is still hope. "I think that our situation is not without God's miracle, as so many times the authorities came and threatened us, but our church is still functioning," he affirms. The Living Faith Church in Gomel has experienced repeated problems while trying to find a way to baptize its members. After using a local river, the church received an official warning in October 2021. Most recently, the church gathered at a private swimming pool on July 28th, 2022. A fine has since been issued, but Pastor Dmitry Podlobko was concerned that another official warning could result in the church being stripped of its legal status. Thankfully, action was not taken to remove the legal status of the church, which was a primary concern.
Emmy Wear at Williamsfield Home in Williamsfield; Emilie Ricknell at Allure Healthcare in Geneseo, Dale Baker at Liberty Village in Kewanee, Jewneel Walker at Kewanee Care, Allan Kraklow at home.
10/4 Linda and Larry Rowe
11/5 Steve and Berniece Harris
Reformation Sunday Matins (Pastor will be away)
Pastor and Carol have plans to travel to Maryland on Tuesday, October 25th, and return the following Tuesday, November 1st, to visit son John and his family. By mutual consent, the subdeacons will conduct matins on Sunday, October 29th in Pastor’s absence. This Reformation Sunday will include the usual parts of matins, including familiar Reformation hymns, as well as a sermon written out by Pastor in advance. There is no mass scheduled for Tuesday, October 25th or Tuesday, November 1st. THIS IS AN ADDITION TO THE PRINTED NEWSLETTER.
Novemberfest and a Gottesdienst Conference
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Mattoon, Illinois, Sunday evening to Tuesday, November 13-15, 2022
We open Sunday night with a brat fry at the church. The conference runs all day Monday and ends Tuesday late afternoon. This year’s featured speaker will be the Rev. David Ramirez, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Union Grove, Wisconsin. His topic will be “The Three Estates and Resistance to Tyranny.” As the modern totalitarian state is ever grasping for more power, he will address how we as the Church can learn from our failures and by going back to God’s Word and seeking to gain a proper understanding of the three estates.
We’ll also hear from Rev. Dr. Burnell Eckardt, our editor-in-chief, on his “Liturgical Observer,” and from departmental editor Rev. Dr. Karl Fabrizius on “Musing on the Mysteries.” We’ll have plenty of discussion and Gemütlichkeit, as usual.
$40 per person until Nov. 1st. After that, $60; seminary & pre-Seminary students – Free. Register online at www.gottesdienst.org.
Altar Guild Notes
Elders: The elders have elected not to meet in October. The November meeting will occur on the SECOND Tuesday of the Month, November 8th. THIS IS AN ADDITION TO THE PRINTED NEWSLETTER.
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church
109 S. Elm Street
Kewanee, IL 61443
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.