On Preaching and Hearing the Word

Greetings in Christ,

I have belonged to a Pastor’s Text Study group for well over twenty years. We meet each Tuesday morning to go over the lessons for the coming Sunday worship. Our goal is to dig as deeply into the texts as we can in order to better prepare the message for the coming Sunday. Most folk are surprised to discover that the average sermon takes between 10 to 20 hours of preparation for a sermon that last 15 to 20 minutes. There are some pastors who can just get up and give a sermon with little preparation, but they are rare.  The pastors I know want to bring a message that helps the hearers come closer to God and that takes effort.

Of course, the Holy Spirit is the chief actor in any sermon. The pastor puts in the effort they can to do as well as possible each week, but the Holy Spirit is the One who brings the fullness of God’s Word, sometimes in spite of the preacher. I am grateful that the Spirit is always at work for I would never presume to get into the pulpit week by week merely on my own. As Luther’s Sacristy prayer goes, ‘if it were left up to me, I would have ruined things long ago.’ Thanks be to God that the Holy Spirit is at work in the proclaiming God’s Word.

That same Spirit is at work in the hearing of the Word as well. A Christian who is prepared to hear the Word will discover the Spirit at work in them as the sermon is proclaimed. We do well to ask for an attentive heart the the Word may find a place within us. If we come in the expectation of hearing a Word from God we are often surprised by that Word. We would also do well to pray for the one called to proclaim the Word. Faithful preaching is not an easy task and your prayers for the pastor as they prepare and preach will help in their responsibility.

Finally, the Word properly proclaimed will at time give us great comfort and at other times challenge us deeply. We should give thanks to God for both, the Word as a comfort to our troubled soul and the Word that moves us out of our comfort zones to a deeper life in Christ. This is not always easy for us, but once moved by the Spirit, we discover an even richer life in our Lord.