As I consider the preaching (and listening) moment that will occur in churches across the world tomorrow morning, I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther which I read recently as quoted by Albert Mohler:
Thus when you hear a sermon by St. Paul or by me, you hear God the Father Himself. And yet you do not become my pupil but the Father’s, for it is not I who is speaking; it is the Father. Nor am I your schoolmaster; but we both, you and I, have one Schoolmaster and Teacher, the Father, who instructs us.
We both, pastor and listener, are only pupils; there is only this difference, that God is speaking to you through me. That is the glorious power of the divine Word, through which God Himself deals with us and speaks to us, and in which we hear God Himself.
The Bible presents an astonishingly simple method of preaching. In Nehemiah 8:8 we read that Ezra and his fellow preachers “read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”
There is no calling as majestic as the Christian ministry, and yet the central task of ministry is breathtakingly uncomplicated. We read the Bible aloud, we read it clearly, and then we explain what we have read, so that hearers understand the meaning. Of course, no one said it was easy. This is an arduous calling, but it is incredibly simple in design.
The most amazing thing about preaching is the fact that God chose to use human mouths for his message. It is astounding that God has willed that the earth shall hear his voice by means of the human voice.
In this light, perhaps the most clarifying way to understand the preacher’s task is to consider its most quintessential act — the opening of the mouth.
Mohler further observes that when Peter began his preaching ministry (recounted in the book of Acts), Cornelius had gathered his family together to hear the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom of God:
“Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord” [Acts 10:33].
This was a congregation that was ready to hear the preaching! They recognized what Luther has elaborated upon - the preacher does not speak for himself; the preacher, using God's Word, speaks for God. Wouldn't it be a powerful thing if every congregation gathered together this Sunday were prepared with this same pronouncement and heart inclination? "Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord” [Acts 10:33].
Imagine the expectation that statement reflects; the faithful eagerness that statement projects. They were gathered to hear and to receive and to believe all that God would command his preacher to say.
So Peter opened his mouth.
That is the very next verse — “So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality’” [Acts 10:34]. So Peter opened his mouth. That is the essential act of preaching reduced to five earth-shaking words. So Peter opened his mouth.
In his commentary on Ephesians 6:19-20, Peter O’Brien notes:
“The expression ‘to open the mouth’ appears in contexts of solemnity where a grave or important utterance from God is about to be made.”
So, brother preacher, open your mouth on behalf of our Father, and your King, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and proclaim the Good News tomorrow morning.
And, dear congregant, open your ears to hear what the Father has said in these days through his Son.