Preaching: Deuteronomy 18:15-20
A suggested focus for this sermon is the representatives of God.
Moses was speaking to a generation facing a new opportunity. They had survived long years of wandering in the desert. Now the prospect of living in the land of their fathers loomed large before them. With the opportunity would come many new problems. To complicate the matter the inhabitants of this land would not welcome them. Moreover, the inhabitants were given to pluralistic and relativistic practices and cravings in attending to their gods. Furthermore, Israel was not to enter the land as conforming alien emigrants. They were to dispossess the evil of this land (7:17-26). So much depended on knowing how to live in this new freedom. (Welcome to the "real" world. Make a list of like marked concerns in God's will that are present among the people this sermon will address.)
Moses' forty years of leadership were nearly over. Who would now be their parental teacher for the special necessities of the time? Moses made it quite clear in his leaving that consulting or acknowledging any source or power other than Yahweh, the God of covenant, is rebellion, abhorrent behavior, and forbidden (vv. 9-14). To assure a personal relation with Israel and that they will live as a holy people in a holy place (6:5), God promised a continuous line of prophets. Like Moses, these spokespersons for God are to hear the law. With this word they are to challenge and guide the heart and mind of the nation to be the people of the Lord. In a sentence, the pericope's dominant truth is that God has not left his creation without a prophetic voice. The implication is that the same linkage given in Deuteronomy between the experience of human beings and the God of creation, preservation, and redemption is valid today. God does provide an authentic means to the world for hearing his authoritative Word. The homiletical approach for this sermon is to use aspects from the doctrine of divine revelation as means for making the pericope clear and understandable. The danger with this approach is that the preacher may end up using the pericope to illustrate the "topic" rather than employing the doctrinal truth to expound the text.
It is generally conceded that there are three modes by which the divine Word uttered in God's mighty acts in history is definitely conveyed to us today—the Bible, preaching, and sacraments. In each of these modes God is coming ever more near and arriving at last in Jesus Christ. The interest for this sermon is the mode of "performative utterance." In a sentence, the sermon is: One way of developing this abstract idea is to ask, What are some of the qualities of this prophetic voice.
According to verse 18, God's prophetic voices are I. Mediators of God's choosing to stand among the people. The doctrinal aspect used to spotlight a portion of the pericope is that revelation is an integral relationship between God and human beings.1 The prophets are persons who follow a voice instead of pursuing a career. Consequently, their entire lives are given up to God. They must walk in two worlds. Therefore, they have "the fear of the Lord [which] is the beginning of wisdom" (Ps 111). They also share in the fears of the people which remind the people of their mortality (Dt 18:16, 17).
These mediators are also II. Receivers of God's word for the sake of people. The usual definition of revelation is that "God speaks to us." The prophetic voice occurs only through the electing wisdom of God. It must not be confused with self-authenticating notions (v. 22). The prophet is one whose heart and mind has been penetrated by the work of the Holy Spirit to inform us about God and the truth about ourselves. How are we to understand, for instance, that we are moral creatures, that we have the capacity to be good. . . "upright" (Ps 111)? What does it mean for us to participate in God's knowing, loving, and hoping, and thereby, exist in community.. "in the company of the upright" (Ps 111) ? The ground for this "expressed goodness" lies in our contact with God. So, the people of today, as down through history, need to listen to persons who authentically have listened to God. How beautifully this quality of the prophetic voice is illustrated by the poet in today's responsorial psalm: "Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them" (Ps 111). And again in today's Gospel lesson (Mk 1:21-38), we see that all the other moments of divine disclosure become ultimately understandable in and through Jesus Christ.
These representatives of God are also III. Proclaimers of God's will with accountability by the people. Revelation resides in human beings. Humanity is intended to be self-disclosures of their Creator. So, pro phetic voices have a special obligation to bring again and again the Word of God to the people from the mount burning with fire. They are to discriminate for the people the salvation that comes from God and the unusual that comes from elsewhere. Their task is to keep the will of God continually present and living, as we can see in today's Epistle lesson (1 Cor 8:1-13). And, today's psalm reminds us of how deeply implicated we are in the epiphany of God — "all those who practice it [the divine precepts] have a good understanding" and partake of everlasting praise (Ps 111).
The above sermon may also be preached by storytelling. Tell the "Baglady" story of Walter Wangerin, Jr.2 Moving toward the climax of the story and the sermon's thesis you will preach —"The story of Robert was meant to be a story. An illustration. Not an event. Jesus, Please. I had come here to preach, not be sifted like wheat in public... Behold, the impoverished is nourishing the preacher. Behold; the servant is being served . . . My sermon had been preempted by reality . . . God was in this baglady . . . Americans at worship. They had no idea what sedition they had taken into their bosoms." Text: v.18. Thesis: God has not left his creation without a prophetic voice! Prayer after the sermon: "May the fire of your word consume our sins and its brightness illumine our hearts."3
A sermon may also be developed inductively by using the context. Who is responsible (has authority) for administrating the divine will? Those who serve the civil community (16:18-17:20). Those who serve the Lord's altar (18:1-8). And, those who serve the Lord's Word (18:15-22).
The pericope may be applied ecclesiologically: Jesus fulfilled the prophetic office both directly and indirectly. His prophetic office continued indirectly as mediated through the apostles and their successors. His prophetic office continues in the Spirit-enabled life of the church.4
A sermon may be developed christologically, by showing how the text is applied to the messianic tradition and directly to Jesus. See John Henry Newman's sermon in the Sermon Reviews.
Donald C. Boyd
1. Concepts on "revelation" used throughout this sermonic development are largely dependent on Kern Robert Trembath, Divine Revelation: Our Moral Relation With God (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991). 2. Miz Lil & The Chronicles of Grace (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1988), pp. 107-115. 3. Christian Prayer: Liturgy of the Hours, St. Paul Editions (Boston: The Daughters of St. Paul, 1976), p. 885. 4. See Thomas C. Oden, The Word of Life, Systematic Theology: Volume Two (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1989), pp. 292-93.wy