St Robert's Presbytery Coronation Street Aberkenfig Mid Glamorgan ONE of the greatest New Testament scholars of our time was the Welsh-speaking Dr C H Dodd, who was born and brought up in Wrexham. A short but very important book by Dodd is The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments, which is a classic investigation of what the earliest Christianity was and how both Epistles and gospels grew out of "the gospel".
In this book Dodd underlines a fact that is often forgotten, namely that the written gospels are but interpretations of interpretations. The gospel is
that which was preached by Jesus Christ and then interpreted through the preaching of the Apostles and others before some of it was put down in written form.
This process clearly indicates the importance of preaching in the task of evangelism.
For many years I have scarcely heard any sermons at all. I have heard many homilies — the word homily means, a tedious moralising discourse written with more or Less conviction and read out with more or less conviction.
These brief essays were not sermons and it is nonesense to call their delivery preaching. 1 am also given to understand that certain publishing organisations send out thousands of written homilies to priests every week. These are then read out, often with puzzlement to comatosed congregations.
All sorts of excuses are made for the absence of preaching, all of them false. Indeed if the Apostles had followed such opinions, the gospel would have been dead and buried in a few years.
What is going on in our seminaries? The first task of the priest is to preach the gospel. How is it possible for anyone to spend quite a number of years preparing for the end of it, to be reading out brief homiletic essays?
To prepare a sermon involves a struggle; skeletal structure, biblical context, relevance to the particular needs of time and place, and the quiet mulling over before preaching. The preacher must speak to a particular congregation, the kerygrna is trumpeted, declared to them and to them alone.
Priests of the future must be skilled in the arts of rhetoric and memory. Without preaching how can the church proclaim the truth about Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, with force and conviction? Fr John Owen