When we gather to worship the centrality of it is the preaching of the Word of God, without which all focus on God is lost, and at times by some it is said that the sermon preached is the Voice of God. Or as I have heard said, when we sit in that worship service it is the Heavens that open up and we are before the very throne of God hearing His voice.
The preaching of the Word is a weighty responsibility for the pastor because of that very reason. Very easily could a man slip into the position of false prophet and be quite guilty of leading the children astray. Yet the sermon is God Himself speaking to us and we are to take it that seriously.
Perhaps a hard concept to envelope our minds around.
Suppose we sat in worship and the pastor was not present that day and a sermon written by another pastor was read. This is a common occurrence when a denomination lacks enough licenced ministers. In the reading of a sermon God’s Word is still expounded and the congregation exhorted. There are times when it is a necessity for sermon to be given in that manner.
I sat in such a service recently. There before me was a man who was not the pastor and was well skilled at reading the sermon. How easily, I thought, one could attribute the words to him and not the actual writer, maybe to the point of praising him for a job well done. Indeed, perhaps there stood a man who was sinful in his life and yet spoke the Word of God. What connection did those words have with him, other than him being the orator, the content of that sermon was not his.
We see this in theatre where actors and actress take on roles that do not reflect their true selves. Yet when we watch the drama before us it is as real to us as if these persons were not acting out the imaginations of an author but were living out their very lives before us. The association and respect we may have for the characters is misplaced and not reality.
So too it is with sermons, the trap that some fall into is elevating a pastor to a position of demi-idol, believing more in their abilities to deliver a sermon than seeing God’s Word preached. And, yes, our responsibility does lie with being discerning and examining Scripture alongside with what is preached since every minister is accountable and that the Word preached is truly the Word found in Scripture. Our obligation is not just to hear the preached Word but to be studious and search the Scriptures that we may know that it is the Voice of God we hear. Every minister is but a fallible man in need of encouragement and wisdom from those around them and not an idol on a pedestal.
Many a worship has become profane because they are no longer a sacred place where God speaks to us but rather a place where personality cults exist and mere men are raised up as idols that inevitable fall to disgrace. So too, the responsibility of ministers has waned as the understanding of the sanctity of spoken word has become corrupt and replaced with a self-centredness that feeds the carnal mind.
Rom 10:13-15 For everyone, "whoever shall call on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without preaching? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!"
To be caught up with personalities and adoration for skills would be blindness. How then to react, to praise the one that read or to praise God? And so perhaps, as I listened to this man read a sermon, I did not look at him but at the one that wrote the words of that sermon and ultimately at the One that wrote the Word.