After the Sermon …

After the Sermon … August 30, 2012

What do you do in church straight after the sermon?

A. Sing the final hymn.
B. Listen to announcements.
C. Receive the benediction.
D. Run out the door for the nearest Chik-Fil-A

I’m starting to think that the moment after the sermon is a great time to confess our faith by reciting either the creed or rehearsing the regula fidei.

There is a reason for this. After hearing about particular passage from scripture or listening to specific piece of God’s story, it is appropriate that we relate it to the wider story of scripture narrated in the regula fidei, or else situate the sermon in the context of the holy, catholic, and apostolic faith. In other words, the creed and regula fidei provide the prime context to accept and understand the sermon.

You can read the Apostles’ Creed here, but here is the regula fidei according to Tertullian:

[T]he Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through His own Word, first of all sent forth; that this Word is called His Son, and, under the name of God, was seen “in diverse manners” by the patriarchs, heard at all times in the prophets, at last brought down by the Spirit and Power of the Father into the Virgin Mary, was made flesh in her womb, and, being born of her, went forth as Jesus Christ; thenceforth He preached the new law and the new promise of the kingdom of heaven, worked miracles; having been crucified, He rose again the third day; (then) having ascended into the heavens, He sat at the right hand of the Father; sent instead of Himself the Power of the Holy Ghost to lead such as believe; will come with glory to take the saints to the enjoyment of everlasting life and of the heavenly promises, and to condemn the wicked to everlasting fire, after the resurrection of both these classes shall have happened, together with the restoration of their flesh. This rule, as it will be proved, was taught by Christ, and raises amongst ourselves no other questions than those which heresies introduce, and which make men heretics.[1]

Now obviously Tertullian has certain specific heretics in mind here, so his rendering of the regula fidei is polemical and contextual. But the wonderful thing about the regula fidei is that it had no exact or precise formulation, though it had several common threads and recurring themes, it was variable. Which means, if you ask me, that it is possible to faithfully restate the regula fidei in our own contemporary language. I would suggest something like this:

God the Father, the maker of the universe, who, through Word and Spirit, made all things out of nothing, planned all things for the demonstration of his love and the satisfaction of his glory. He created Adam and Eve in his own image and after their rebellion, He also revealed himself as the Lord in diverse ways to the patriarchs, to Israel, and in the prophets, to call to himself a people worthy of his name, among and for the nations. When the time had fully come, He sent his Son, born of a woman and born under the Law, a Son of David, enfleshed as a man in the womb of the Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit, and who came forth as Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was baptized and in the power of the Holy Spirit he preached the hope of Israel and the kingdom of God, he proclaimed good news to the poor, did many miraculous deeds, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he was buried and rose again on the third day according to the scriptures. Then, having made purification for sins, he ascended into the heavens, where he sat down at the right hand of the Father, from where he shall come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead, and after the great resurrection, he shall take his people into the paradise of the new creation, and condemn the wicked to everlasting fate. The church now works in the mission of God, in dependence upon the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, bearing testimony to Jesus Christ, to preach good news and to show mercy, until the day when God will be all in all.

Would that be a good thing for the congregation to recite after each and every Sunday sermon?

[1] Tertullian, Prescriptions Against Heresies. 13.

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • tricci

    I’m thinking I’m going to use that after the next sermon I preach. Thanks Michael!

  • Thanks for this, Mike. There is another benefit also: many recent criticisms of the adequacy of the creeds suggest their lack of focus on the details of Jesus’ life is a problem; this ignores the traditional liturgical location of the creed, which you highlight. In the classical Western liturgy, at least (I don’t know enough about the East), the order runs: gospel reading; homily based on gospel reading; recitation of creed; … In this order, the details of Christ’s life do not need to be in the creed, because they are there in the gospel reading and explored in the homily; the creed is appropriately constructed to frame this detailed liturgical exploration of events in the gospel narrative with a wider narrative of God’s saving works.

  • In our church there is a prayer and we leave. I miss having some response: a well chosen hymn would be nice, but some response.

  • In our church the sermon is not the end of the service. The preached word is intended to prepare us for the rest of the Lord’s service: it is followed by a pastoral prayer, a hymn, a confession of faith, another hymn/song, the Lord’s supper, offerings, and benediction.

  • Thanks Michael, I whole-heartedly endorse the idea.

    I just wonder about your update of Tertullian. He had the “Son” being “seen” in diverse manners in the Old Testament under the name “God”. You have the Father “revealing” himself as “Lord” in diverse manners. Why the switch in Person?

  • Our minister in South Africa ended the service after his sermon. This took us all by surprise as we were used to singing a song/hymn. It took a while getting used to this but we all did. What we found happening was that as we walked out of the big room into the lobby where all the refreshments were, people carried on talking about what we’d all be hearing – the sermon. It was great and people joined in as they heard different points being raised. The 2 ministers were also at hand if we hit a ‘kink’ in our thinking. It was great.

  • This is why I love being part of the Anglican communion. As soon as the sermon is over we recite the Nicene Creed, followed by prayers of the people and the Eucharist. I’m not on board with the sermon being the focal point of worship services. As my priest says, “Even if I preach a bum sermon, you have the Eucharist to look forward to.”

  • Peter G.

    “Run out the door for the nearest Chik-Fil-A,” and then hit your head against the wall when you are reminded… again… that it’s closed!

  • Our sermons end with a moment of reflection and then a hymn or meditative song that reinforces the heart of the sermon. After the moment of reflection (a minute or two) and song, we end with a blessing. When we celebrate the Eucharist the sermon is in the middle of the service and leads into the Anglican (we are a Methodist church) liturgy.