What Is a Sermon?

In chapter 7 of Eugene Peterson’s As KingFishers Catch Fire, he reveals how the book of Deuteronomy formed his preaching. He said:

I was in the early years of being a pastor when I learned this story of the discovery of Deuteronomy and the revolutionary reform led by Josiah and Jeremiah. I suddenly knew why preaching is important. It develops an imagination adequate to embrace revolution. (Bold mine)

He then goes on to describes what a sermon is:

This sermon (the book of Deuteronomy) does what all sermons are intended to do: takes God’s words, written and spoken in the past; takes the human experience, ancestral and personal, of the listening congregation; and then reproduces the words and experience as a single event right now, in this present moment. A sermon changes words about God into words from God. It takes what we have heard or read of God and God’s ways and turns them into a personal proclamation of God’s good news. A sermon changes water into wine. A sermon changes bread nouns and wine verbs into the body and blood of Christ. A sermon makes personal again what was once present and personal to Isaac and Rebekah, to Ruth and Boaz, to David and Abigail, to Mary and Elizabeth, to Peter and Paul, to Priscilla and Aquila. To you. To me. No word God has spoken is a mere literary artifact to be studied. No human experience is dead history merely to be regretted or admired. The continuous and insistent Mosaic repetitions of “today” and “this day” throughout the Deuteronomic sermon keep attention taut and responsive. The complete range of human experience is brought to life and salvation by the full revelation of God. That is what Moses is doing from his great pulpit on the plains of Moab: Live this! Now!

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