That the sermon, if it is to be a Christian sermon at all, must be an honest attempt to expound a passage of Scripture should go without saying. To by-pass Scripture at this point is like trying to celebrate the Holy Supper without bread or wine; it is to show that one is ignorant of the commandments and promises which determine Christian worship.
But it is not enough just to take a text. To take a text and then proceed to use it as a peg on which to hang one’s own thoughts is as bad as having no text at all: it is to handle the Word of God deceitfully and to insult the Lord who wills to speak to his people through the words of Scripture. But to say that preaching must be expository is not to say that it must not be topical in the sense of having direct relevance to contemporary events. On the contrary, the scriptural passage has not been properly heard and understood, until it relevance to the actual concrete situation of the congregation has been recognized; and the more patiently and honestly expository preaching is, the more relevant and contemporary does it become. Of course it is true that there is a sort of exposition that leaves everything in the air, but that is no proper exposition. A scriptural passage is not properly expounded until its relevance to the hearers becomes plain.
—C. E. B. Cranfield, “Divine and Human Action,” Interpretation 12:4 (October, 1958):393
The sermon is, by its audacious claim to be the word of God for the people at this time in this place, an implication of a miracle. The miracle is a faint but, by God’s grace, unmistakable “incarnation” of Jesus Christ. Fully divine, fully human, yet one God-with-us is the Christian confession of the nature of Christ. The sermon dares to make the same claim.
—Leanne Van Dyk, “Proclamation: Revelation, Christology,” A More Profound Alleluia, 72
It is often said that Luther restored congregational singing. This is true, but he did more than that: Luther restored preaching to the congregation—a most appropriate activity for lay priests. “If, now, the congregation is to proclaim the divine truth, it must have a sermon worth preaching. This is the reason for the substantial…doctrinal content in many of the Reformation hymns.”
—P. J. Janson, “The Reason We Sing, Reformation and Revival 4.4 (Fall 1995), 19
Soren Kierkegaard observes that the true test of a good sermon is not whether people heard it, enjoyed it, and discussed it over their Sunday meal. Rather, the philosopher points out, the real test may be whether people heard it and found themselves too inspired, too angered, too challenged, or too sick to eat a Sunday meal.
—cited in C. Welton Gaddy, The Gift of Worship, 78
Proclamation in public worship in New Testament times never consists of what we should call pure doctrine. It is always by the measure of the Apostles’ word none the less prophetic utterance, always a testimony in which the very person of the one who testifies is involved; it is utterance which thus attempts to interpret the present situation with the authority of the Spirit.
—Eduard Schweizer, “Worship in the NT,” Reformed and Presbyterian World 24:5 (March 1957): 202
The basic unit of meaning on Sunday morning is not the sermon but the service.
—Marva Dawn, Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, 215