Some thoughts that have begun to help my on-going questioning of the place of sermons in church life, from N.T. Wright’s wonderful little book, The Last Word (which, incidentally, as nothing to do with Brian McClaren’s book of a very similar title… methinks the publishers were trying to cash in on all the recent talk on the emerging church):
The teaching and preaching of Scripture remains, then, at the heart of the church’s life, alongside and regularly interwoven with the sacramental life focused on the Eucharist… It is also important to remind preachers that, just as some of the Reformers spoke of the sacraments as God’s "visible words," so sermons are supposed to be "audible sacraments." They are not simply for the conveying of information, though that is important in a world increasingly ignorant of some of the most basic biblical and theological information. They are not simply for exhortation, still less for entertainment. They are supposed to be one of the moments in regular Christian living when heaven and earth meet. Speaker and hearers alike are called to be people in whom, by the work of the Spirit, God’s word is once again audible to the heart as well as to the ears. Preaching is one key way in which God’s personal authority, vested in scripture and operative through the work of the Spirit, is played out in the life of the church.
Thank you, Mr. Wright. That really helps. Not just for information or exhortation, but to create "kingdom moments," or "thin places" between heaven and earth. Preaching is a way of hearing and submitting to God’s authority. By telling the story again and again, we are reminded who God is, what he has done and is doing, and who we are, and the part we have to play in the outworking of this great story. The task for preacher and hearer, then, is not simply to convey and learn new information, or to exhort and be exhorted, it is to bring heaven and earth close together, to pull back the curtain and glimpse the glory of God and his plan for this world. It is to make the transcendent tangible.