4. Preface to Preaching
- Title: Prayer and Preaching
- 1. Prayer in the Reformation
- 2. Christian Prayer According to the Reformers
- 3. The Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer according to the Refomers
- 4. Preface to Preaching
- 5. Essential Characteristics of Preaching
- 6. Preparing a Sermon
- A Sermon on Ascension Day
- Appendix Outline Sermons
1. Some Personal Words (1961)
A number of my writings, hitherto unpublished even in German, have on occasion been privately circulated; among these is a course of lectures-I no longer remember when or where they were delivered-on ‘Preaching and how to prepare it’.
It will be apparent that here I have ventured into the field of practical theology, and if this little book should come to the notice of experts in that discipline, they will, I trust, forgive the liberty I have taken and judge it not too severely.
With regard to the dogmatic elements in these lectures, it should be remembered that when they were given I was still a comparatively young man; since that time, with advancing age I have perhaps advanced in wisdom also-at least I hope so. However that may be, so far as dogma is concerned there is nothing of importance that I wish to retract, nor are there any changes that I wish to make in the text presented here.
Moreover, anyone who is acquainted with my Dogmatics will recognize at once that the views expressed there are essentially the same as those of this earlier work, though argued and formulated in slightly different terms.
The present work is primarily concerned with certain practical rules and suggestions which I still hold to be essential and worth considering-or at least of being read carefully and discussed. Anyone, of course, is free to criticise them.
A well-informed young theologian might find it of interest to compare some of my sermons-for example those in the series Deliverance to the Captives,(*Sermons translated in 1961. Most were preached in Basel Prison.) or simply the three outlines suggested in this book-with the principles expounded here; and see how closely I have adhered to them.
2. Basic Definitions
This study is an expansion of two definitions
a. Preaching is the Word of God which he himself has spoken; but God makes use, according to his good pleasure, of the ministry of a man who speaks to his fellow men, in God’s name, by means of a passage from Scripture. Such a man fulfils the vocation to which the Church has called him and, through his ministry, the Church is obedient to the mission entrusted to her.
b. Preaching follows from the command given to the Church to serve the Word of God by means of a man called to this task. It is this man’s duty to proclaim to his fellow men what God himself has to say to them, by explaining, in his own words, a passage from Scripture which concerns them personally.
The reason for making these two statements is that preaching has a dual aspect : the Word of God and human speech.
In attempting to describe, in theological terms, what happens when a man preaches, one can only give indications and suggest points of reference. We are carried beyond human thinking to God, who utters the first and the last word. God cannot be enclosed in any human concept; he lives and acts by his own sovereign power.
The theologian has to move in two directions; his thought must ascend and also descend. And even when this has been done, he fulfils his duty of proclaiming the Word of God only in a partial and imperfect manner. But if he carries out this task aright he can be certain of doing what has to be done and what he ought to do.
His discourse is his own; it is neither reading nor exegesis. He utters the Word which he has heard in the Scriptures, as he himself has received it. His calling as a preacher is comparable, in a sense, to that of the apostles. He also has, but on another plane, a prophetic function.
The attempt to serve the Word of God and to proclaim it is a duty laid on the Church. The most appropriate word in this connexion is Ank?ndigung (announcing what is to come) rather than Verkundigung (describing what is). God will make himself heard; he it is who speaks, not man. The preacher only has to announce the fact that God is about to speak. The word Ankundigung does not imply that the hearer is called to make a decision. A decision, if it is made, is a matter between the individual and God alone and is not a necessary element in preaching.
This does not mean, however, that preaching is never a call to action. In fact it is, precisely, a call addressed to the believing Church. But a decision is the work of divine grace -or rather of that mystery which is the direct encounter between man and God. The preacher must recognize that the decision does not depend on him.
It should be added that there is no basis in human experience for the concept of preaching. It is a purely theological concept resting on faith alone. As has been said, it is directed to one end only : to point to divine truth. It cannot pass beyond the bounds of its own nature, to assume another form more easy to grasp.