Page 4, 23rd September 1966

23rd September 1966
Page 4
Page 4, 23rd September 1966 — RELEVANT PREACHING

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People: Karl Barth


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NO one would want to

deny. I think, that preaching is not so serious a business among us as it might be. Among evangelical ministers preaching is something of a profession: Catholic priests, on the whole.' give the impression that sacrificing is their whole business, and preaching something more of a hobby.

But preaching is important. And it is difficult. To begin with, consider the diversity of audience. Could there ever be a more heterogeneous hash of mankind assembled under one ceiling to hear one and the same message?

Preaching must be relevant, it is said. But to whom? Poor Father must try to satisfy everybody all at once—he has none of the advantages of television. for instance, which can cater for different tastes at different times and on different channels.

But sympathise though we will with his problems, we cannot rest content with the present uncommunicative situation. We cannot leave all the preaching to Protestants.

It is an elementary principal that the homily should come immediately after the Gospel and not be separ ated from it by long-winded notices as is the general custom. This highlights the fact that preaching should have as its basis and inspiration the Word of God. As Karl Barth said once: "Even at the Mass the Bible is displayed; but how unimportant, how indifferent a matter is the sermon based upon it."

The Gospel is timeless as to the benefits it brings. Preaching adds to the scriptures by cutting the cloth of God's revelation into seasonal shapes—what it does, in fact, is to apply God's timeless message to our temporal situation.

How shall the preacher know what is the temporal situation in his district except he talk to his people continually through their representatives, through family groups and so on. Life. after all, is the only textbook there is for preaching. People need to be asked what it is in their life they want elucidated in the Sunday sermon. Even the priest might benefit from a little bit of market research into his wares.

Christ, I suspect. would have found material for many a parable by walking through a modern market. or visiting a couple living in two rooms with the wife's

mother and sharing the same kitchen and bathroom with all and sundry.

There should also be some occasions in the year at least for sermons to special groups. especially to married people. The principle is already accepted in times of Missions. So often the poor preacher has to mince matters to such .in extent for fear of "putting ideas into the heads of the young" that his words make no impression on anybody.

Special groups would make real instruction a possibility— which it isn't -4 the moment—in ''the most important, difficult and delicate areas of people's lives. Catholics can't be put off for ever by being told to "read a C.T.S. pamphlet about it".

As to the manner of present preaching, it can only be described as ascetic in the extreme. The vivacity. almost passion, one can detect sometimes in the notices disappears completely when the sermon begins.

Too much enthusiasm is undoubtedly a disgusting thing. But there is something in the ancient and hallowed dictum, "the more you are moved yourself, the more you will move others". Geoffre, Ramnell

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