Thursday, April 17, 2008
Initial Thoughts on the Pope's Visit and Homily
I watched the Pope's homily this morning, and several things came to mind. There is much to be pleased about. I think that his sense of who he is, and of the gravity of all that he does as Pope, is a good thing for people to behold, even for us who are not of the Roman Catholic communion. Would that more men who preach the Gospel would have such a sense of who they are, and of the gravity of what they are doing. Did you notice? No jokes, no levity, no feeling the need to 'yuk it up'; now that was a refreshing thing indeed.
Second, he doesn't seem to be taken with the need to be 'correct' according to the sensitivities of this or that interest group. He addressed head-on the horrid matter of pedophilia in the priesthood and the need to help the children affected by it. Good for him. Brave man.
I noticed something else too, which is that this didn't really seem to be a real sermon, at least not in the sense I understand what a sermon ought to be. It was more of a speech. To be sure, I'm not meaning to criticize what he said here (see above); and in fact I believe it was better than what I hear in altogether too many churches, whether Roman Catholic, Lutheran or other. Really, it was quite good, I thought.
But I'm always looking for more of a sermon in the basic sense of what a sermon ought to be, in my opinion. What I mean is that I am accustomed to preaching on some Gospel, the Gospel just read prior to the time of preaching. I don't think he really did this. I realize that most preachers don't do it; but I think it would be better if more preachers did it. What happens when the preacher explicates the reading just heard is that he implicitly shows that he is dependent on the Scriptures in his preaching. He is not simply addressing the people with his own ideas, nor, really, is it his business to do so.
Preachers need to address their people according to what the people face, certainly, but I think they need to be careful to be addressing those things from the Gospel. Generally the sermon should contain clear and frequent references to what was heard in the Gospel reading.
Of course this was a special occasion, so there's room for a bit of an exception here. It just got me thinking more generally about the need for expository preaching.