Liturgy in the Local Congregation VIII

The Sermon Hymn, or Hymn of the Day (p. 22)
This hymn is perhaps the most important hymn of the service, as it relates both to the theme of the day and to the theme of the sermon. It prepares us for the message of the sermon and reminds us again of the church season and of the particular season, if one is celebrated (i.e., Christmas, Easter, Pentecost).

The Sermon (p. 22)
After the abuses of the Church in the Middle Ages, in which Masses were conducted often purely for the sake of doing them and for money, Luther was adamant that Scripture not be heard without explanation and interpretation. Prior to Luther, sermons had become infrequent at best and absent altogether at worst. Following the example of the early Church (“the apostles’ teaching,” Acts 2:42), and the example of Luther, this congregation places a high emphasis on the preaching of God’s Word. Along with the Sacrament of Holy Communion, preaching is indispensable in a Christian church. Thus, you will often hear reference to “Word and Sacrament,” which is shorthand for what is most important to Lutheran Christians.

The sermon is not disconnected from either the rest of the service, or the Church year. Usually the sermon will focus on the Gospel Lesson, as this contains the direct words of Jesus; but occasionally, the Old Testament or Epistle lessons are the basis for the sermon. Even if they are not the text for the sermon, they are often used or referred to in the sermon.

While the sermon may contain instruction, exhortation, and interpretation, none of these are the essence of the sermon. It is not a true sermon if God’s Law and God’s Gospel are not preached. When these are present and “rightly handled” (1 Timothy 2:15), the Holy Spirit has promised to bring the Word of God to the hearers, bringing them from death to life (1 Samuel 2:6). In Isaiah 55:10-11, God promises: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” The preaching of God’s Word is, along with Baptism and Holy Communion, one of the greatest gifts God has given to the Church (Romans 10:13-17).

The Augsburg Confession puts it this way: “To obtain such faith [“reckoned as righteousness”] God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit and produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC, Art. V, Kolb/Wengert Ed.).

[Timotheos]

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