Today we look at The Sermon section in the Anglican Standard Text. The Anglican priest and poet George Herbert (1593-1633) wrote a poem called The Windows that speaks deeply to this topic of The Sermon.
Lord, how can man preach thy eternal word?
He is a brittle crazy glass;
Yet in thy temple thou dost him afford
This glorious and transcendent place,
To be a window, through thy grace.
But when thou dost anneal in glass thy story,
Making thy life to shine within
The holy preachers, then the light and glory
More reverend grows, and more doth win;
Which else shows waterish, bleak, and thin.
Doctrine and life, colors and light, in one
When they combine and mingle, bring
A strong regard and awe; but speech alone
Doth vanish like a flaring thing,
And in the ear, not conscience, ring.
The various facets of this poem bring to light the awesome responsibility and purpose of preaching. God has spoken through the prophets, and teachers and apostles of the Bible. What we hear in the lessons is God’s word. This word is a living Word that transcends time and space. God is still speaking to us today through His written word.
The preacher’s task is to be faithful to the original meaning of the text while discerning what God is saying to His people today. The Rev. Herbert starts by acknowledging how unqualified any person is to preach God’s Word. Preachers are all brittle crazy glass. This is indeed the human condition.
Fortunately, preachers do not rely solely on their own wisdom or knowledge to preach. Preachers are to become a window towards God. It is God’s grace that fashions the crazy brittle glass into that of a stained window. He takes all the pieces and makes something beautiful. When the life of a preacher is “annealed” or colored with the story of God then God is revealed within the life and words of the preacher. It is God who does this work within the preacher and not simply lots of effort. This does not mean preaching does not take hard work or knowledge but that these humble offerings of man are made into something wildly better and more beautiful through the Spirit of God.
The point of preaching is to be a window for God so that He might bring His light into the dark world and “win” those in the darkness over to the light. This is an especially powerful point that The Rev. Herbert makes. Preaching is not teaching but more than teaching. Real preaching always comes with a call towards Godly transformation. This call might be one of repentance or it might be one of Godly mission and evangelism. The Rev. Herbert says that “speech alone doth vanish like a flaring thing, and in the ear, not conscience, ring.” Preaching is a call to action even if that is an action of the heart. If preaching ends at the ears of the hearer than it has not accomplished its job.
When we gather to hear The Sermon we are not looking to learn something new. We are opening our hearts and our minds to hear God and be recast into His beautiful stained glass.
This week as we gather for worship may you hear God’s voice and be transformed.
Holy Trinity Anglican Church
PO Box 81804, San Diego, CA 92138