Thursday, August 14, 2008
The Preacher, II
Don't say "our text."
As in, "Our text for today . . ." Or in, "this is what our text is saying . . ."
In the first place, it is a bad idea to refer to the Gospel as a "text." A text is something written down, but, as Blessed Martin Luther said, the Gospel is primarily an oral thing, something proclaimed and not written. Jesus never wrote anything down. So therefore, although there are written Gospels, and certainly the Gospel in written form is valid and powerful, yet this is not the primary form in which it is to be used. Faith comes by hearing, says the Apostle. Therefore especially when preaching, we are in the business of proclaiming out loud the good news of salvation. This is not the time to be calling attention to a text.
Although we are certainly bound to the truth of the Biblical text as we proclaim the Gospel--it is our norm--still the power of the Gospel we preach is not dependent upon our making known that we have derived the message therefrom. The power is in the message itself, as it springs out of the mouth of the preacher and into the hearing of the people. This power is no text, and we belie this truth when we refer to the Gospel as a text.
Secondly, when the preacher says "our text," he is really meaning by the word "our" to be saying that it is under "our" consideration. Yet it is really the preacher alone who is considering this Gospel, and explicating it for the people. When he says "our" he really means "my." But that would sound too jarring, somehow too pompous. "Our" softens the blow. Yet the fact is that the preacher is here still meaning to say, "the text on which I am preaching." If he wishes to avoid inserting himself here, it would be better to say, simply, "This Gospel," as Luther does, or something similar.
"Our text" is a cliche. It's just another throwaway line. It's pedantic and dull. And so it turns off the ears. And "text" sends altogether the wrong message. Don't say it, preacher.