You may have noticed that on any given Sunday, I have a ritual before I preach. I begin by asking the congregation to join me in prayer. The prayer I use is based on Psalm 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” This is a reminder to me that what I am embarking upon, the hubris in preaching, is not about Tim Eichler or Tim Eichler’s opinion. It is about God’s Word. I therefore consciously take on the task of preparing to preach, and preaching as a reflection of God’s Word as God is my … our … rock and redeemer. It is about God and what God has to say to you and me as children of God.
The next element of the ritual that I have developed as a habit is to begin the sermon using Paul’s salutation from his letters: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” (e.g. Romans 1:7; Ephesians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; and 1 Corinthians 1:3). For me, this is the genesis of the proclamation of God’s Word. God’s Word for me begins with the cross of Christ — Jesus Christ’s grace and mercy. Grace and mercy through His crucifixion, death, and resurrection. In other words, I place myself at the foot of the cross as a redeemed sinner striving to humbly proclaim Jesus Christ’s salvation for all people through Scripture.
The foundation of this ritual comes from a paragraph in one of Martin Luther’s Sacristy prayers. The paragraph prayed is:
“Then if You [God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] are please to accomplish anything through me, to Your glory and not to mine or the praise of people (original men), grant me, out of Your pure grace and mercy, a right understanding of Your word and that I also may diligently perform it,” (A paragraph from Martin Luther’s Sacristy Prayer).
As I reflect upon the great task of proclaiming God’s Word, the ritual in preparation to preach during the week and on Sunday morning is my understating that I am here not of my own volition. I am here because God, through the Holy Spirit, has called me to the office of ordained (appointed or ordered) ministry. Through my imperfection, I humbly ask God to be present and use my words and meditation for the furtherance of the kingdom of God if God so desires.