The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present

Lischer, Richard, ed.

Eerdmans, 2002

p. 315

p. 315, from John Broadus, A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (1889 ed.)

Broadus points out that the Gk. word homilia (from which we get “homily”) means “conversation, mutual talk” and that the 9th century writer Photius remarks how like conversations Chrysostom’s homilies were. He seemed to have his listeners right in front of him. He raised questions with them, tried answers, made promises, etc., not in the way of formal discourse, but in the way of two Christians talking together. Homilies are not orations. Compare to homilia the Latin sermo from which we get “sermon.” In the twentieth century, seeking to counteract some of the formalism that had crept into some American pulpits (Compare “Let us trust God’s word, for we know it is true” and “Let’s go to Fricano’s tonight, dear, for we love their rigatoni.” “For” is way too formal to fit a conversational address.)

Jacks counseled preachers to write for the ear, not the eye, to prepare sermons that speak naturally, using stories, dialogue, and sentence fragments just as a person would in good conversation (1). Jacks’ end-of-century counsel turns out to be deeply traditional.

(1) Robert Jacks, Just Say the Word: Writing for the Ear (Eerdmans, 1996), p. 38.