This is an excerpt from part two of “On Any Given Sunday: The Story of Christ in the Divine Service” by Mike Berg (1517 Publishing, 2023).
The words of the Greek men in the temple cannot be recalled often enough (John 12:21). They wanted Jesus. They needed Jesus, and so do we. The man in the robe has a divine call; he is not a hired man. Congregational oustings have no part in the church and often backfire. At the same time, there is no excuse for laziness or incompetence, which are the cause of too much grief. The laity has a right, no, a duty to demand doctrinal integrity and Christo‐centric preaching from its pulpits. The church must demand to see Jesus. It is her right. It is her duty.
Itching ears will lead people to complain about the preacher, and the lure of popularity will tug on that same preacher, but he must put himself away and preach Christ. There are too many important matters to talk about, and there is too much at stake to do anything less. Social gospel, prosperity gospel, eco‐gospel, liberation gospel, and all the other pseudo‐gospels out there can contain fabulous causes that should be taken up and even led by Christians, but they are not gospel. They are not Christ. If all the preacher accomplishes is making life a little less painful, successes a little more frequent, the world a little cleaner, or society a little more compassionate, but fails to place the hearer into the heavenly realms through Christ and Christ alone, all he has done is make the path to hell a little smoother. “Sir, we would like to see Jesus,” is the church’s cry because this is the only way we know God. As the axiom states, “Know Christ, know God. No Christ, no God.”
Notice that the sermon is only one part of the Divine Service. It is not the crescendo of Sunday morning.
The sermon is not didactic although it teaches. It is not an inspiring story although it lifts us up to new heights. It is not a moralistic tale although it leads to a new life. It is not a self‐help talk although it guides us. It is not fire and brimstone although it calls sin for what it is. At its basic best, the sermon is an extension of confession and absolution. It makes us shamefully aware of our sins and comforts us with forgiveness. It shakes things up because it brings Christ into our lives.
Notice that the sermon is only one part of the Divine Service. It is not the crescendo of Sunday morning. There is a lot more going on than just the sermon. Every bit of the Service is God’s Word. Some of it is a paraphrase, but much of it is taken from Scripture verbatim. It is a mistake to put everything on the shoulders of one man, although he speaks with the Holy Spirit’s power. The talent of the preacher does not make a church worthy or unworthy of attendance. The sermon simply guides the listeners back to Scripture and ushers them to the Lord’s table.
This is an excerpt from part two of On Any Given Sunday: The Story of Christ in the Divine Service by Mike Berg (1517 Publishing, 2023), pg. 96-97