29 November 2012

Liturgy (full-time) 9.2: Seminar: homiletics and homiletics in history

The sermon (Cartoon by Dave Walker)

Patrick Comerford

EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 14:00 to 16:00, Thursdays, Hartin Room:

29 November 2012

This afternoon:

Rites of passage, e.g., Marriages, Funerals.

9.2: Seminar: homiletics and homiletics in history: readings may include Saint Augustine, Thomas Cranmer, Lancelot Andrewes, John Wesley and Martin Luther King.

Sermon Illustrations (Cartoon by Dave Walker)

Liturgy 9.2: Seminar: homiletics and homiletics in history: readings may include Saint Augustine, Thomas Cranmer, Lancelot Andrewes, John Wesley and Martin Luther King.

1, Saint Augustine:

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Saint Augustine of Hippo: ‘John is the Voice, Jesus is the Word’

Saint Augustine is one of the most important of the Early Church Fathers and is revered as a Doctor of the Church. Many of us are familiar with his famous prayer: “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.” But one of my favourite quotes from him is: “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Augustine was Bishop of Hippo Regius, present-day Annaba in Algeria, in the Roman province of Africa in the mid-fourth century. His writings influenced the development of Western Christianity, and his thoughts profoundly influenced the mediaeval worldview.

The American writer Thomas Cahill considers Augustine the first mediaeval man and the last classical man. Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of the Reformation because of his teachings on salvation and divine grace.

This excerpt from a sermon by Saint Augustine (Sermo 293, 3: PL 1328-1329) is used in the Roman Office of Readings for the Third Sunday in Advent, known as Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday. It presents a wonderful contrast between the role of Saint John the Baptist, the voice crying out in the wilderness, and that of his cousin, Jesus, the Word of God made flesh. The humility of John, whose role was to prepare the way of the Lord, is highlighted. His joy was complete to see Jesus increase and himself decrease in importance.

2, Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer: Sermon on the Knowledge of Scripture Part 2 (The Second Part of the Sermon of the Exhortation to Holy Scripture Against Fear and Excuses)

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), the ‘Father of the Prayer Book,’ was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury (1533-1555) during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and (briefly) Mary I. He built a favourable case for Henry VIII’s divorce and supported the principle of royal supremacy.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, he was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the Church of England. He did not make many radical changes in the Church, but succeeded in publishing the first officially authorised vernacular service, the Exhortation and Litany.

During the reign of Edward VI, Cranmer wrote and compiled the first two editions of The Book of Common Prayer, a complete liturgy for the Church of England. With the help of Continental reformers, he developed new doctrinal standards in areas such as the Eucharist.

With the accession of Mary I to the throne, Cranmer was tried for treason and heresy, and he was executed in Oxford in 1556. On the day of his execution, he dramatically withdrew his recantations. As the flames drew around him, he placed his right hand into the heart of the fire and his dying words were, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit ... I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

His legacy lives on through The Book of Common Prayer – although it is difficult to ascertain how much of the Prayer Book is actually Cranmer’s personal composition – and through the 39 Articles, which are part of his legacy although not his composition. But we can agree that his chief concern was to design corporate worship to encourage a lively faith.

This excerpt from Thomas Cranmer’s preface to the Great Bible of 1539 is an apt introduction to part two of his sermon:

... the Apostles and prophets wrote their books so that their special intent and purpose might be understood and perceived of every reader, which was nothing but the edification of amendment of the life of them that read or hear it ... Wherefore I would advise you all that come to the reading or hearing of this book, which is the word of God, the most precious jewel and most holy relic that remaineth upon earth; that ye bring with you the fear of God, and that ye do it with all due reverence, and use your knowledge thereof, not to vain glory of frivolous disputation, but to the honour of God, increase of virtue, and edification both of yourselves and other.

3, Lancelot Andrewes

Lancelot Andrewes ... TS Eliot describes him as ‘the first great preacher of the English Catholic Church’

Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626): Gunpowder Plot Sermon, 1606

Lancelot Andrewes held senior positions in the Church of England in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, and after two decades at Cambridge he was successively Bishop of Chichester, Ely and Winchester, and chaired the committee that had oversight of the translation of the King James Version or Authorised Version of the Bible.

TS Eliot, in his essay, For Lancelot Andrewes: an Essay on Style and Order (1928), argues that Andrewes’s sermons “rank with the finest English prose of their time, of any time.” Eliot spoke of his indebtedness to the bishop’s writings: he is “the first great preacher of the English Catholic Church,” and he had “the voice of a man who had a formed visible church behind him, who spoke with the old authority and the new culture.”

For Eliot, “The intellectual achievement and the prose style of Hooker and Andrewes came to complete the structure of the English Church as the philosophy of the thirteenth century crowns the Catholic Church … the achievement of Hooker and Andrewes was to make the English Church more worthy of intellectual assent. No religion can survive the judgment of history unless the best minds of its time have collaborated in its construction; if the Church of Elizabeth is worthy of the age of Shakespeare and Jonson, that is because of the work of Hooker and Andrewes.

“The writings of both Hooker and Andrewes illustrate that determination to stick to essentials, that awareness of the needs of the time, the desire for clarity and precision on matters of importance, and the indifference to matters indifferent, which was the general policy of Elizabeth … Andrewes is the first great preacher of the English Catholic Church.”

4, John Wesley

John Wesley, by William Hamilton

John Wesley, Sermon 101: The Duty Of Constant Communion, from The Sermons of John Wesley (Thomas Jackson, editor, 1872 ed).

The Revd John Wesley (1703-1791) was an Anglican priest and theologian who is seen – alongside his brother Charles Wesley – as the founder of Methodism.

His sermons are a key to understanding Wesley, for Methodism began when he took to open-air preaching, albeit reluctantly at first. His great contribution was to appoint itinerant preachers who travelled widely to preach as well as to evangelise and to care for people.

Wesley was a fluent, powerful and effective preacher. He usually preached spontaneously and briefly, though occasionally at great length. His written sermons are characterised by spiritual earnestness and simplicity. They are doctrinal but not dogmatic. Both his Notes on the New Testament (1755) and his Sermons are doctrinal standards for Methodists.

John Wesley says in a preface to the sermon we are looking at this afternoon:

The following discourse was written above five-and-fifty years ago, for the use of my pupils at Oxford. I have added very little, but retrenched much; as I then used more words than I do now. But, I thank God, I have not yet seen cause to alter my sentiments in any point which is therein delivered. 1788 J.W. “Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22: 19.

5, Martin Luther King

The Revd Dr Martin Luther King … ‘How Long? Not Long!’

Martin Luther King: Our God Is Marching On! (25 March 1965. Montgomery, Alabama)

The Revd Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was an American Baptist minister, Nobel Peace laureate and prominent Afro-American human rights campaigner. He is best known for his non-violent direct action and his speeches in the civil rights movement in the “Deep South” in the 1950s and the 1960s.

Many of his speeches at marches and demonstrations have the quality and tenor of sermons, even though they were often delivered outside the context of church and liturgy. His “I Have a Dream” speech at the climax of the March on Washington in 1963 has made him as one of the greatest orators in American history.

He was assassinated on 4 April 1968. This afternoon’s sermon or speech – with its repetition of the echoing question-and-answer sayings “How Long? Not Long!” – was delivered on 25 March 1965 on the steps of the State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, at the end of the Selma to Montgomery march that began with the violent attacks of ‘Bloody Sunday’ (7 March 1965).


10.1: Theology of the whole people of God, the theology and rites of ordination; gender and ministry.

10.2: Seminar: Spirituality of ministry; readings on the minister as person, private, public and holy:

Christopher Cocksworth and Rosalind Br own, Being a priest today (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2nd ed, 2006), Chapter 7 (pp 129-153).

Malcolm Grundy, What they don’t teach you at theological college (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2003), Chapter 16 (pp 162-172), ‘Spirituality and a Rule of Life.’

Sister Barbara June (Kirby) SLG, ‘Simple Gifts: Priesthood in a Praying Community,’ (Chapter 5), pp 62-71 in George Guiver et al, Priests in a People’s Church (London: SPCK, 2001).

Michael Ramsey, The Christian Priest Today (London: SPCK, new ed., 1992), Chapter 9, ‘The Ordination Gospel’ (pp 61-67).

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These biographical notes were prepared as introductory notes for a seminar on 29 November 2012 as part of the Module EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course.

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