Translated "And how are they to hear?"
I've heard it said that in our current context of media and technology, the only people who give monologues anymore are comedians, professors, and preachers. Who else do you listen to for an extended period of time? Who else do you allow to speak at you continuously for 15, 20, or 30 minutes? We have all experienced boring sermons and dull preachers. Is preaching dead?
The above picture was taken in the small prayer chapel at the base of the Luther Tower on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. It's a cool place, beyond the lore that it was the scene of one of the Lutheran exorcisms upon which the movie "The Exorcist" was based. In the center of the room there is a solid marble altar, a perfectly square block. Engraved around the altar are words in Greek, from Romans 10:14-15, "And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" At the base of this block altar is the design of a compass in the marble floor. The symbolism is that this place sends out preachers, east and west, north and south. Preachers sent with the gospel, so that many might hear the Word of God.
I spent part of the day on the seminary campus at their annual theological symposium, this year's being on preaching. (You may be tempted to stop reading after seeing the words "theological symposium." Please don't.) Pastor Dean Nadasdy of Woodbury Lutheran Church in Minnesota said:
"The word of the Lord came," write the prophets, and when it came, they hit their knees, they listened, they prayed, and they came out talking.
What this means is that your pastor (at least this one) approaches preaching with deep humility. We do our best not to "make stuff up." We speak on the authority of another. We speak what we've heard ourselves. As your pastor, know that I preach only what's first been preached to me. In other words, I wrestle with the text as it relates to my own life. Only then can the Word of God come from me authentically, honestly, and powerfully.
So I still have high regard for preaching, even if many dismiss it. I still believe that there are prophets, mouths of men that God chooses to fill with his words. And so I strive to grow as a preacher. But most of all, I open myself to God's word, "hit my knees, listen, pray, and come out talking."