Saturday, 2 February 2008

Encountering the Word of God: against effective preaching

A guest-post by Ray S. Anderson

The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God. It is an event in which speaker and listener surrender control to the other; it is like an act of love.

When the event of Word of God occurs, the blind can see what is often hidden from the eyes of the sighted – mere human words ignite the burning bush that draws both to the terrible truth of holy ground. One does not take notes when God speaks. When God speaks, a Word is worth a thousand pictures.

The effect of the Word of God is the Word of God (Isa. 55:11). When Jesus stooped to draw in the sand (John 8:6-8) he did not write something to be remembered but used the tactic to disarm and disturb the cynical power of his critics, and to assume authority for Word of God. No one remembered what he had drawn in the sand but all knew that his words to the woman were words of grace rather than judgment. A picture, a symbol, an icon, a melody can only enhance the event when they are consumed by the fire rather than extinguishing it, as they are sure to do when they become a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). Every attraction is also a detraction.

“The call to worship God can mean the temptation to idolatry,” wrote Karl Barth, but this is a call that cannot be avoided (CD II/1, p. 55). The very thing that is intended to serve the Word of God – including the voice and demeanor of the preacher – can detract or deflect from it. If we imagine that by using some kind of visual or audio aid the preaching of Word of God can be more edifying or even more believable, we may be indulging in cheap magic rather than encountering divine mystery. This is the fascination of idolatry – it is delightful but never dangerous. The idol is safe and even satisfying, but not transforming

“I often think of the set pieces of liturgy as certain words which people have successfully addressed to God without their getting killed,” wrote Annie Dillard. “In the high churches they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a strand of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger” (Holy the Firm, p. 59).

When we move from preaching Word of God to teaching Word of God, we move away from the mutual surrender of control (as in an act of love), to an active/passive situation where the one who teaches seeks to engage and activate a passive listener. But the passive can be engaged only through distraction, as the listener is invited to add his or her own interpretation and interest in the symbol, image, or figure. The difference here is like the difference between a lecture on love and an act of love.

For this reason, Jesus was more often frustrated than fulfilled in his role as teacher with his disciples. This is the pain of even the Master Teacher; being misunderstood is the ironic conclusion of being too quickly understood. Most sermons are misunderstood when they attempt to teach. Everyone’s notes are in a different dialect.

If one should dare to preach Word of God, be prepared to be exposed to the “naked” event of proclamation – just in case the computer for the power point slides goes down. But this might become a transforming event for all. Lord, deliver the Word of God from the technology and tricks that we use to make our preaching so effective!

29 Comments:

George Hunsinger said...

I heartily concur. As I like to say to my students:

Faithfulness is a higher virtue than effectiveness.

Brian Lugioyo said...

Ray - thanks for that post. For those of you interested. Ray has just finished a series of sermons on Amazing Grace at Grace Lutheran Church in Huntington Beach, CA. It is a three week series: 1) The Father who loves you, 2) The Son who saves you, and 3) The Spirit who comes to you. The first two are online to listen to at: http://www.gracehb.org/sermons.htm
I expect the third should be there shortly. I enthusiastically recommend listening to them

Enjoy.

(There are a few of Ray's sermons/chapel talks on iTunes as well)

Mike said...

The Word proclaimed is a ‘Means of Grace’ in which God uses to reach us ‘when and where’ God chooses. It is not our doing, in preaching or teaching, that convinces the hearer; but only that of the divine Word empowered by the Holy Spirit. It would therefore seem that we are totally reliant on God in any proclamation, whether it is “cheap magic” from a screen or a humble delivery in its “naked” form. It is God who can use BOTH for God’s glory. Should it not be our intention then, to use whatever tools of communication are available to us?
A microphone is used so that they can hear....why not a screen so that they can see?

Anonymous said...

Mike: I agree. Note that I said "If we imagine" that in using visual or audio aids we can make the Word of God more edifying. I do use powerpoint slides to some degree, but I hope that they will be 'consumed' by the event rather than extinguish it by detracting from it. The problem of idolatry is always there, as Barth said. Ray Anderson

D.W. Congdon said...

Wonderful! I really like how you began by referencing the Second Helvetic Confession. Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I don't get that - in fact I go so far as to say I disagree. If I, misguided as I am, stand up to preach the Word of God, that doesn't make the event the Word of God. The bible that I preach out of is the Word of God, but what I say is not necessarily what He would say.

I suppose you could say that if I stand up to preach the Word of God in my misguided state, the event that takes place is not the preaching of the Word of God. This denial would rescue your assertion, but only at the cost of no-one ever being able to be sure that any particular purported preaching event was actually a preaching of the Word of God. I suggest that's about as much use as the Roman Catholic doctrine of marriage: a marriage is only a marriage if it is entered into with the right intention, and seeing as one cannot look into one's spouse's heart, one can never be sure if one was truly married. Hence there's always the possibility of annulment later. Isn't it preferable to allow that there were real marriages which later on really broke down? Isn't it better to allow that there were real sermons which later on proved to be not the Word of God.

Another problem with your assertion is that of the sermon which helps one person but not another. Can the Word of God really be so subjective as to be his Word for one and not for another? Isn't it better to allow that the preaching of the Word of God is one step removed from the Word of God itself?

Yours in Christ - JOHN HARTLEY
vicar@stluke-eccleshill.org.uk

Erin said...

Wonderful post post Prof. Anderson. Glad to see you around here again :)

kim fabricius said...

Neat gnomic post, with which I too concur - as long as it all comes under the rubric ubi et quando deo visum est. Ray is surely not suggesting that the sermon works ex opere operato. Hananiah preached as well as Jeremiah. No, the main thing being to keep the main thing the main thing, as Ray begins: what happens between pulpit and pew, and when it happens, is not a matter of mastery, technique, technology, relevance, etc., it is miracle and mystery, death and resurrection (which, on the one hand, doesn't mean you can loaf in the study, but which does mean, on the other, that God can speak even through lousy sermons, as well as, I dare say, through "teaching" semons). Sermons resist closure - and good posts on sermons do too.

Now to bed, so I've got plenty of energy to be nervous and careful about handling high explosives tomorrow morning at around 11:00. Miserere Deus.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this excellent post!

patrick said...

What could it mean to say that the preaching of the Word of God *is* the Word of God? It seems to follow from the fact that the preaching of the Word of God is the preaching *of* the Word of God -- some distinct thing -- that the two things aren't identical. Compare: suppose someone said that the tasting of an apple *is* the apple. Or that listening to music *is* the music being listened to. Something's gone wrong.

And (moving on) what could it mean to say that the effect of X *is* X? If X is around to have effects, then it's pretty clearly conceptually prior to its effects. It sounds odd to say things like: the effect of my teaching *is* my teaching, or the effect of the crash *is* the crash, and so on.

In short, these claims seem dubious.

Ray Anderson said...

I appreciate all of the responses. John Hartley rightly asks about the relation of Scripture to Word of God and Patrick wonders how both the Bible and preaching can be--"is"-- Word of God. Behind my view of preaching as Word of God lies Barth's three-fold concept of Word of God (CD I/1, pp. 120 ff). Revelation (Christ), Scripture and proclamation are a unity of the event of Word of God. This is what "is" is. Just do it faithfully and expectantly because (as Barth says), God is faithful. Ray Anderson

psw said...

One Monday morning when I got up. What first thing came to my mind is the pictures shown from the powerpoint in Sunday morning sermon.
What I am worrying about is that sight has already overpowered our listening in worship. I think that not only do we need to develop the theology of the Word in preaching, but also the theology of listening.
It seems to me that listening is much more emphasized in the Old Testament. Listening, for me, is a humable act that the congregation of the church has to learn. Sight is always a preparation of listening. Not the reverse.
Thus, although I agree that God will use the powerpoint, it never overrides the voice of the Word.

clayschmit said...

I teach with Ray at Fuller Seminary, especially in the area of preaching. What Ray says about preaching as the Word of God is at the core of a solid theology of preaching. One can quibble about X is Y or X is about Y. The point is that if the preacher does not begin, prepare, and deliver a message that he or she believes is God's Word for God's people in a given time and place, then the preacher has no business wasting people's time. Sure, that is expecting a lot. It probably makes some people's blood run cold. But, it ought to. Preaching is, to quote another Barthian (Charles Bartow), "God's Human Speech." So, as preachers, we should not shrink from our calling: we are set apart to speak God's Word. If we don't plan to do that, we should save ourselves the effort and our listeners to time.
Clay Schmit

Joel said...

for me the expectancy and eventfulness of preaching is nicely expressed in :

"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"

- KB, from an early lecture on preaching.

Cheers,
Joel.

JKnott said...

Call me nitpicky, but my problem with this post is the phrase "grace rather than judgment." I know it's not your main point but this kind of (IMO, un-Barthian) dichotomy is far, far too common and needs to be challenged whenever it arises. There is no grace without judgment, hence the whole necessity of the cross.

patrick said...

Clay,

Well, *I* don't think I'm merely quibbling. I happen to think it's important that we're as clear as possible when doing philosophy or theology, and I happen to think that Ray's points about the preaching of the Word of God being identical to the Word of God itself aren't very clear. Or don't you think it's important to get things right along these lines? Or is it always "quibbling" to make even a moderately technical objection to someone's theological or philosophical point?

If you ask me (which you aren't, I guess), and speaking as an outsider, it's lamentable that theologians feel comfortable making what would otherwise be conceptual and categorical howlers by simply italicizing the word *is*. So now things that intuitively aren't events get to be events, and on and on. (I'm not merely picking on Ray here. For instance, Ben Myers himself, in his theology for beginners post [on the trinity] says that ""God" is name of what happened when Jesus was raised from the dead." What could this possibly mean? I won't go into it. And if you complain that I haven't done the relevant theological reading to properly sympathize with Ben's point, then I'll complain that this is a series for *beginners*, and thus that if there ever were a place where no extensive background in his sources should be required, this should be it.)

I should add that -- as far I understand it -- I agree with the substance of Ray's post.

Best,
Patrick

Glen said...

To Patrick, John and others, The three-fold-ness of the Word is a perichoretic threeness. It is Barth's analogy for the trinity. Therefore surely you can say that Preaching is the Word in the same way that Jesus is God - i.e. 'God from God'. Preaching therefore is 'Word from Word'. And it is no less itself the Word simply because it has its existence 'out of the substance of the Scriptures.'

patrick said...

Thanks for the tip. I guess I still want to resist the idea that the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God. I think something in the neighborhood of this claim is right, but the claim itself seems unnecessarily confused (or confusing). I take it the central idea is that, when a preacher preaches (holding some other things fixed) what he preaches itself counts as the Word of God for the folks hearing him. Well, even if that's not right (though I'm inclined to think it is), this claim at least makes sense. But notice -- it's *what he preaches* that counts as the Word of God -- not his preaching it. These are different things.

Along these lines, you say, "Preaching is the Word in the same way that Jesus is God." Not entirely sure what to make of this, but notice that while Jesus is a person (and thus relevantly similar to God) Preaching is an activity (and thus relevantly dissimilar to the Word, which isn't in the ballpark of an activity.)

I guess you could say something like, "Wow, the preaching today was really the Word of God for us." That'd make sense. But this isn't relevantly similar to Ray's claim. Here, *the preaching* refers to *what the person said*, not *his saying it* or some activity performed by the preacher. (After all, how could an activity, or something one does, itself be the Word of God? Seems odd, to say the least. I guess you could invoke some obscure way of talking to do the work here, but is such obscurity really helpful or responsible?)

Best,
Patrick

Glen said...

Hi Patrick,
I can think of a few things Barth would say to that (not trying to hide behind the big man but it is surely Barth's doctrine of the Word that's behind this post).

1) The Word itself is an act - the Lord is present with His Word in power. To hear the Word is to be drawn into the sphere of His Lordly rule. Barth speaks of the congregation member who hears the Word proclaimed and then says 'to all these words what corresponds in reality'. He says such a person has clearly not heard the Word. The Word is an act.

2) The Word is (irreducibly) a Person. And this is why the Word is an act because the Word is Christ.

3) We must remember the divine initiative. It is not a question of 'can we hear God's Word in the preacher?' Rather it's 'Is it Christ Himself who encounters us in the preacher?' We should consider things this way around lest we fall into an ex opere operato of the pulpit. It is Christ who chooses to condescend in Scripture and Proclamation (not we who bring Him down). But where and when He does come down, it is Christ Himself who encounters us.

(Think of a preacher who challenges the congregation to confess Christ as 'My Lord and My God.' (John 20:28) If they don't, have they disobeyed only the preacher? Have they not more fundamentally disobeyed Christ? Such is the humbling authority of 'the keys of the kingdom' (Matt 16:19; John 20:23).)


4) Christ never encounters us apart from the other two forms. Thus Scripture *is* the Word of God - not as a separate Word but *in* its witness to Christ. This is why I mentioned the 'Jesus is God' stuff. The Son is one with the Father *in* His mediation of the Father. He is no less God for being a witness of God. But He is also no less distinct from the Father in this oneness.

In the same way preaching is no less the Word for being a witness to Christ. But simultaneously it is no less *distinct* from Christ (and Scripture) for being one with it. We need a perichoretic ontology not only for God but for the Word also.

5) There is divinity and humanity to all three forms of the Word. Yet, for all that, we must not force a Nestorian divide between humanity and divinity. You cannot get around the worldliness of the Word - whether of Christ, Scripture or preaching. And it is not at all desirable that you should - for the Word as grace meets us where we are. The fact that we meet the human Christ, the human apostles and prophets and the human preacher does not prevent the Word from being still a divine Word. Just as the eternal Word did not come in a man but as a man, so on Sunday morning, God's Word does not come contained somewhere within the preaching but it comes as this human preacher in this situation witnesses to Christ.


Taking all these points together, I think you can maintain a claim for the preaching event as one in which Christ Himself encounters the congregation through the mediation of Scripture and Proclamation. This mediation is not a dilution of Lordly power. Even in all the humanity of the bible and the preacher, nonetheless revelation is grace - it is God's work. And He makes it effective.

[Preaching is] “the speaking of God himself through the lips of the minister.” (Karl Barth, Homiletics, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991, p67.)

“…in what Church preaching says of God, God Himself speaks for Himself.” (Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics, vol. 1, part 2, trans. Geoffrey Bromiley, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1956, p800)

Best to you.

patrick said...

Hi Glen,

Thanks for the interaction. I'm not entirely sure how to proceed, but for what it's worth I'll make a few points.

First, I worry about what you say in (2). You say, "The Word is (irreducibly) a Person. And this is why the Word is an act because the Word is Christ." OK, but if the Word is irreducibly a person, how can the Word also be an act? It just doesn't make sense to say of a person that she is an act (or, contra nearly everything Ben says, an event). Persons are the sorts of things that *perform* acts or *bring about* acts and so forth. Right?

I like what you say in (3), but I'm not clear on how it supports Ray's point.

I like how you've summed yourself up (which seems to suggest that, at bottom, we probably don't disagree very deeply): "I think you can maintain a claim for the preaching event as one in which Christ Himself encounters the congregation through the mediation of Scripture and Proclamation. This mediation is not a dilution of Lordly power. Even in all the humanity of the bible and the preacher, nonetheless revelation is grace - it is God's work. And He makes it effective." OK -- for all I've said, I can agree with that. (Or do you not think so?) I just don't see how you can get from here to Ray's startling claim the the preaching of the Word of God *is* the Word of God.

An Anxious Anglican said...

This post and these comments are great examples of why I visit this blog! Thanks to all for wrestling with these issues. Now if someone could just help me figure out how to read all of Barth in the remaining 30 or so years of my lifetime (God willing!), I would be much obliged. :-)

Glen said...

Hi Patrick,
You wouldn't be the first person to have trouble with Barth's use of 'is'!!

Usually the Barthian 'is' that people have trouble with refers to "the *Bible* is the Word of God." Most evangelicals think his 'is' is too weak regarding the Bible but at the same time too strong regarding preaching! I think that reflects something of the perichoretic point I'm trying to establish. The Bible really *is* the Word of God not as a separate Word but inherently as a witness to Christ. And preaching is the same for Barth - it really is the Word of God and it is the Word of God by mediating it.

I guess therefore I'd ask whether (conceptually) you have a problem with the Bible as the Word of God? For Barth the way in which both Bible and preaching is Word of God is basically the same - i.e. as a mediation of the eternal Word, Christ. (This is all part of his 'being in becoming' ontology).

Thanks for pulling me up on (2) - that was sloppy. The eternal Word (Christ) is the agent of the act which is His Word in Scripture and preaching. What the Person-hood of the Word (Christ) ensures is that His Word effects what He says because *He* says it.

I think we're perhaps not so far apart, I think it's a matter of what Barth means by 'is'. (And behind this is his 'being in becoming' ontology.) If we're happy (at least conceptually) with the bible as Word of God, then we've already conceded that a humanly mediated word that is not itself Jesus can be called the Word, haven't we?

I've started a post on this on my own blog if you're interested.

http://christthetruth.wordpress.com/2008/02/06/preaching-of-the-word-of-god-is-the-word-of-god/

Thanks Patrick,
Glen

Emergent Pilgrim said...

Thanks for your post Ray, there seem to be very few people engaging with a theology of preaching (at both an academic or pastoral level), so your words are refreshing and challenging. You state in you rpost, "when we move from preaching Word of God to teaching Word of God, we move away from the mutual surrender". As a minister who enters the pulpit Sunday after Sunday I wrestle with the tension between proclamation and teaching. For quite some time now I have valued incorporating the context of the lectionary reading onto the overall picture of Salvation history (be it very briefly and where appropriate). Surely the minister has a responsibility to preach and teach in one action? We proclaim Christ who is present and who has been present in the entirety of human history. I do not want my messages to be 10 step plans or 6 points however; do we not have a responsibility to proclaim the entirety of scripture in its historical and literary contexts? And from there draw our proclamation of the God who is with us? I know this is not argued from a very ‘academic’ angle but rather a practical or pastoral response but it is a question I always have when I read about Barth’s view of preaching.

patrick said...

Hi Glen,

Nope, I've got no beef with the Bible being the Word of God. (That's what I've always taken the Word of God to be, but I'm sympathetic to the idea that what a [faithful] preacher preaches also counts as the Word of God [though probably in some attenuated sense, but I've got no story here]). The only problem I've got is with saying that the Word of God is an activity someone could possibly perform. That just doesn't make sense, I don't think, and that's what I took Ray's claim to be. (An alternative interpretation of his claim is that "the preaching of the Word of God" simply refers to *what faithful preachers preach when they preach*. But, for various reasons, this seems like a very implausible interpreation, not least because it seems pretty trivial to claim that what faithful preachers preach is the Word of God. We already knew that, I take it.)

On a different point, even if Ray's claim re: the preaching of the Word being the Word turns out OK (which, to beat a dead horse, I doubt it does), his claim that "The effect of the Word of God *is* the Word of God* remains just as it was. Which is to say: just as baffling. I just can't make any sense of the idea that something's effects can be the something itself. What's crazy to me is that I'm the only commenter here that seems troubled by it!

Glen said...

Hi Patrick,

Having re-read an earlier comment of yours I wonder whether the issue is whether 'is' means identity. This is why I raised the 'Jesus is God' point. He is not identical to the Father. Yet in all His differentness to the Father He is one with Him. To see the Galilean Rabbi is to see the Father. In fact the only way to see the Father is to look to the Galilean Rabbi. In this sense 'Jesus is God.' But He is (in Barth's language) a different mode to the Father. Just so, Scripture and preaching is emphatically *not* Christ in terms of identity. But through them (and only through them) Christ is really revealed. In this sense preaching *is* the Word of God.

The three-fold Word as trinitarian analogy is vital here, and I think it helps explain what 'is' means. A distinct mediator is itself the mode in which the other is revealed. This is true of Christ's relationship with the Father and it is true of bible and preaching as regards Christ.

Then you have to ask 'what is the scope of the third form?' Does it include the preacher clearing his throat? etc etc. The Barth quotes I gave above give a limited scope 'in what preaching says of God...' So that seems in line with what you want to affirm.

In terms of the effect being the Word itself. I take that as being roughly the claim that Christ Himself is received in hearing the Word of the preacher. I have no unmediated access to Christ yet through Scripture and Proclamation He really is present with me. Just as the bread and wine remain bread and wine and yet nonetheless I really, by faith, receive Christ in the elements ('This *is* my body'!), so preaching is still just preaching but I really, by faith, receive Christ in the sermon. This is the sense in which I take Ray's comment - Christ is really communicated with Lordly power. And the only effect worth aiming for in preaching (yet one the preacher cannot effect!) is the encounter with this eternal Word to Whom the preacher can only point. To have encountered Christ Himself in the sermon is the event of the Word - it is the intended effect of preaching.

If Ray means something very different about 'the event of the Word of God' then I'll have to think again. But that's my understanding for what it's worth.


Hi Emergent Pilgrim,

I'll let Ray respond if he wants but here are some Barth quotes that might be useful:


“The Bible says all sorts of things, certainly; but in all this multiplicity and variety, it says in truth only one thing – just this: the name of Jesus Christ… The Bible becomes clear when it is clear that is says this one thing… The Bible remains dark to us if we do not hear in it this sovereign name… Interpretation stands in the service of the clarity which the Bible as God’s Word makes for itself; and we can properly interpret the Bible, in whole or part, only when we perceive and show that what it says is said from the point of view of that… name of Jesus Christ.” (I/2, p720)

“the Old Testament is witness to Christ, before Christ but not without Christ... As a wholly Jewish book, the Old Testament is a pointer to Christ.” (Homiletics, p80)


“One can never say of a single part of the narrative, doctrine and proclamation of the New Testament, that in itself it is original or important or the object of the witness intended. Neither the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount nor the eschatology of Mk 13 and parallels, nor the healing of the blind, lame and possessed, nor the battle with the Pharisees and the Cleansing of the Temple, nor the statements of the Pauline and Johannine metaphysics and mysticism (so far as there are any), nor love to God nor love to neighbour, nor the passion and death of Christ, nor the miraculous raising from the dead – nothing of all that has any value, inner importance or abstract significance of its own in the New Testament, apart from Jesus Christ being the subject of it all. His is the name in which it is all true and real, living and moving, by which, therefore, everything must be attested.” I/2, p10-11

Ray Anderson said...

Emergent Pilgrim. Of course every event of proclamation is also one of teaching, but not every event of teaching becomes or is intended to be proclamation. One of my former colleagues on faculty was James Daane, a rather crusty Dutch Reformed theologian and pastor (are there any other kinds?) who answered a student's question about the difference between teaching and preaching by saying, "When I teach you have a right to your opinion and should hear what I say with a critical mind. When I preach if you believe what I say you go to heaven if you do not you go to hell!" The students were not at all comfortable with this response.
And Glen, you put it well, in preaching the Word I intend the same effect (though not being able to produce it) as when Andrew brought Peter to Jesus and said, "There he is." It is somewhat the same as Luther who was not dismayed by paradox and simply said of the human Jesus, "there is God," whether on the cross or on the altar. Ray Anderson

Emergent Pilgrim said...

Thanks Ray, Glen. After my post I picked up Busch's "The Great Passion", and began to reflect on preaching and proclamation. It seems to me that the only hope for preaching is that it proclaims Word of God!As a minister I can not rely on my own thoughts, my own tricks, videos ect. It is God who reveals himself and to that I point. Busch made some very helpful comments on the place of historical exegesis, "if we detach the biblical text from their intention, they are plunged into a confusion of the differing religious conceptions of past ages" (p.66). We bear witness to God's past revelation and action within the community of God's people - both Israel and the Church. We recall the witness of God throughout biblical history.

Yet I still have some questions Ray:
1) In an age of decline in church attendance and yet an age of heightened spiritual awareness how is God making himself known?

2) Barth talks about (CD 1/1, p.3) of the internal and external mission of the church. It is a phrase that has captured my attention. We are proclaiming Christ to those within the church walls as much as those outside. My question is this 'What does it mean if the 'event of proclamation. ' takes place and nobody seems to care?' I am not looking for results but I do wonder if there should be some evidence of God's work amongst the congregation (which I know is there if I look. I think you understand the nature of the question)

regards
Mark, Emergent Pilgrim.

Ray Anderson said...

Emergent Pilgrim:
You ask: 1) In an age of decline in church attendance and yet an age of heightened spiritual awareness how is God making himself known?
Proclamation is an event of Spirit, not only of Word. It is an event of revelation not merely information. When Calvin said that one cannot know that Scripture is Word of God apart from the 'internal witness' of the Holy Spirit (I.1.1) we might say the same thing regarding proclamation. So the question might be, "how is the Spirit present?" or, "How do we discern which Spirit is present in the event?" (Barth). I do not think that it is by 'signs and wonders' but rather the 'amazement' of Pentecost when those who were there heard 'in their own language.' I intend to preach toward this 'amazement' which more often occurs when I dare to ignite the souls of others with some bit of flame from my own, which seldom occurs when looking down at my notes.

You ask: "My question is this 'What does it mean if the 'event of proclamation. ' takes place and nobody seems to care?' I am not looking for results but I do wonder if there should be some evidence of God's work amongst the congregation (which I know is there if I look."

If nobody seems to care it probably means that I do not really care. When i preach I want people to see how much I care--I want them to know that I risk my very soul on the truth that is proclaimed. That is not easy. I get tired of risking my soul every time I preach and, even more so, It it is so easy to proclaim what is already self-evident and thus has no risk. When Job said,"I will take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hand,"(13:14) I wonder if we as preachers should not be as bold in our preaching as he was in his self-defense. People will throng to see someone risk their lives in some dare-devil stunt, and be amazed at the outcome. I don't find the popular self-help preachers very amazing, though I am impressed with their ability to sell books of their sermons. So I do not look for evidence but for amazement. And I think that is what Barth meant by the 'astonishment;' that should accompany the task of the preacher/theologian. But enough. I have a sermon to suffer into existence. Ray Anderson

Deacon Jim said...

Thank you for this post. As a deacon in the Polish National Catholic Church I am commissioned to preach the Word of God. In the PNCC we recognize the proclamation of God's work - in its recitation and in its preaching as a sacrament. In fact, between the Gospel and sermon we sing a hymn to the Holy Spirit seeking the Spirit's guidance over our words.

Our 1937 ritual book stated in part:

For this sacrament the priest must have the intention of preaching the Word of God in conformity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the listeners must have the intention of receiving the Word as food for eternal life.

I believe that the numbering of the Word as a sacrament is unique to the PNCC as a Catholic Church.

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