|Preaching the Word of God|
Worship is the business of adoration towards God. When a believer comes before the living God in Christ they bow before him and adore him, they recognize his holiness in adoration. Worship is done in private prayer, but is also done with other believers in a service of worship. Believers in the Anglican church gather for worship Sunday by Sunday in the service of Morning Prayer or Holy Communion as set out in the Prayer Book. By following the book a believer worships God in praise, prayer, confession and thanksgiving. At the centre of the service there is the worship of listening, of listening to Christ, hearing his Word. The reading and exposition of scripture takes pride of place in an Anglican service.
At the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, preaching in the English church was at a low ebb. The clergy were poorly trained and often led the congregation into vain belief. In 1536 Cranmer, the reforming archbishop of the Anglican church, set out to remade this problem by authorizing the placement of an English Bible in each parish church. In 1543 he authorized the reading of a chapter of scripture in Morning and Evening Prayer and the reading of the Gospel in English in 1547. The 1549 Prayer Book contained a comprehensive Lectionary outlining set Bible readings for each day of the week throughout the whole year. This lectionary has been constantly updated through to our present lectionary called the Revised Common Lectionary used, with some minor changes, in A Prayer Book for Australia, 1995.
The state of preaching was of great concern to Cranmer and so he authorized the publication of the (1st) book of Homilies (sermons) composed by the great English reformation preachers, including himself. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth a second book of Homilies was added to the first. The parish minister was to read a homily each Sunday, and in this way the people would be properly instructed in the Word of God. As the 1562 preface puts it, its purpose is to tend "the souls health", "quieting of the conscience in the chief and principal points of the Christian religion", "by the setting forth and the pure declaring of God's word, which is the principal guide and leader unto all godliness and virtue, to expel and drive away as well corrupt, vicious, and ungodly living, as also erroneous and poisoned doctrines tending to superstition and idolatry."
The subject matter of the initial homilies is quite interesting. The first sermon deals with the source of all truth, namely the Holy Scriptures. It is an exhortation "to the reading of Holy Scripture". The second sermon deals with the problem of sin, the third covers salvation and the fourth the means of salvation, namely faith. The fifth deals with the godliness that should flow from true faith. Here is a series of five sermons outlining the substance of the Christian gospel.
The business of preaching
i] Communication. Preaching is simply the communication of Biblical truth. Although traditionally delivered in the form of a religious lecture from a pulpit, preachers are increasingly using modern technology to aid communication. Anglican liturgical form, and church architecture and furniture, do not always lend themselves to video screens etc.
ii] Evangelism or teaching. Preaching is either for conversion Matt.10:7, 27, or encouragement and upbuilding in the Christian life Col.3:16, 1Tim.4:11, 2Tim.2:24. Preaching in church is normally not evangelism. Evangelism is the business of proclaiming the gospel in "the highways and byways", inviting the lost to share in life eternal. In church the preached word is either straightforward teaching (a "word of instruction") 1Cor.14:6, or a word of "strengthening, encouragement and comfort" (sometimes called prophecy, although distinct from the primary revelation of the Old Testament) 1Cor.14:3. None-the-less, the proclaimed word in church can mightily touch the sinner and lay bare the secrets of their heart. "So they will fall down and worship God", 1Cor.24,25. Sound "prophecy" (preaching) does the work of evangelism.
iii] Subject. The subject matter is Christ, Act.8:5, 35, 9:20, 10:36, 1Cor.1:23, 2Cor.4:5. Christ is proclaimed when the preacher exposes the "mind of Christ" in expounding the whole council of God. By expounding the Three Year Series of Old Testament readings, epistles and gospels, a preacher is able to cover the breadth of God's Word rather than constantly working over their pet subjects.
iv] Method. There are numerous preaching methods, but in the Anglican church expository preaching is the favoured methodology, although topical, life-centred preaching, is on the increase is Church Growth churches. Expository preaching expounds a selected passage, identifying the central truth revealed in the passage, and possible related sub truths, and then applies that truth to the life of the congregation. By means of the systematic exposition of scripture the congregation is submitted to God's complete council for his people rather than the ephemeral truths of the preacher's own imagination.
v] Purpose. "To prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ", Eph.4:12,13. The preacher expounds and applies Biblical truth so that the believer is equipped to live it out day-by-day. Truth, in interaction with the circumstances of life, serves to prepare us for our reign with Christ in eternity.
Index of studies: Resource library
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons