Every Sunday, the pastor stands in front of the congregation proclaiming the Word of the Lord. There is a lot that goes into the preparation of the sermon. Study in the Word, sometimes in the Greek, Hebrew, or Latin languages. Thoughtful prayer and meditation on the texts for the week are a part of the process. The crafting of a sermon takes time, prayer, and wrestling with the right words to share the Word. If the pastor is paying attention, then an awesome fear and reverence accompanies him into the task of proclaiming the Law and Gospel of Jesus to a group of sinner saints at a Sunday service.
But what does the listener bring to the table during the sermon? How can the pastor and people work together, along with the Holy Spirit to bring ears to hear what the Lord has to say?
- Approach the sermon with an open heart and mind to what God has to say through the called servant delivering the message. There is a prayer in the front of our Lutheran Service Book entitled “For blessing on the Word.” Pray that prayer before the beginning of service or even as the pastor is preparing to preach.
- Read the Scriptures ahead of time, even a week before if you know what they will be. Familiarize yourself with the Word being proclaimed. Being in the Word regularly is not only good preparation for hearing a sermon, it’s also good for the building up of your faith every day.
- Be aware of your posture and mood as the sermon begins. Are you sitting with arms crossed and face frowning or are you soft and open ready to receive the gift that God has for you?
- Take notes or jot down passing thoughts as the sermon progresses. What are you hearing differently or perhaps for the first time? What is the new thing that God is doing?
- Expect to see and hear Jesus in the sermon. This isn’t necessarily a content thing, though a Lutheran preacher ought to have Jesus at the center of the sermon. But simply expect, in a positive way, to see and hear Jesus in the sermon. He’s there with you in the midst of the congregation. Look for him.
- Finally, pray for your pastor. It is no small task to deliver the message of God to His people. God has raised up and called preachers throughout time to share the Gospel. Your pastor joins the ranks of the prophets and patriarchs in proclaiming the powerful Word of Christ.
Hopefully some of these things will help you as you listen to another sermon on Sunday. Keep in mind that Jesus is there for you in the Word of his preachers. He or she who has ears, let them hear.