Sunday, November 1, 2009

Oh, Homily

One curiosity that I've discovered over the last few years is that there is no necessary correlation between denominational affiliation and theological insight. It was men with extraordinarily bright theological minds that led me to appreciate liturgy, tradition, and the sacraments in such a way that really opened my eyes to the sheer breadth of Christ's Church, teaching me how narrow my own theological outlook was. As a result, I had come to expect that the higher church denominations would be bastions of homiletic richness. It came much to my surprise, then, that many Anglicans, Catholics, and Orthodox are no more naturally blessed in biblical exposition than a non-denominational preacher in a small country church. The sermons in the "high traditions" are just as rife with moralism and pious platitudes as those of any other tradition.

Of course, the merit of those higher church traditions is that the Ministry of the Word is not reduced to the homily. The Word is fed to the people by means of several lectionary readings, psalm chantings, and creedal recitations in addition to the sermon. Much more, the written prayers are shot-through with biblical language such that, even if the present minister is a shoddy exegete (or is disinterested in exegesis altogether), the gospel can still be proclaimed. In fact, these churches have the virtue of decentralizing the role of a single man in their worship, preventing the frequent problem of churches built around celebrity preachers (personality cults).

I know where to go for brilliant homiletics, I think. But a mere sermon does not Christian worship make. It's part of it, to be sure - but only that.


Jake Belder said...

I took the opportunity to visit a local AMiA congregation today. The first of every month is something of a children's Sunday, with a period of about 15 minutes used mid-way through the service to explain the readings from the OT and the Gospels. As a result, they do not have the usual homily/sermon that their worship would the other 3 Sundays of the month.

Nonetheless, today I experienced the richness of the liturgy and the Eucharist in a way I never have before. The Spirit of God spoke through each part as the congregation together confessed, prayed, sung, and shared the Supper. I now understand much more clearly what you were alluding to in your tweet some time ago that prompted our discussion on this topic.

UriandMelinda said...

Jake, the CREC awaits you!