A sermon is an oration or lecture by a preacher (who is usually a member of clergy). Sermons address a scriptural, theological, religious, or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law, or behavior within both past and present contexts. Elements of the sermon often include exposition, exhortation, and practical application. The act of delivering a sermon is known as preaching.
In Christian churches, a sermon is usually delivered in a place of worship, either from an elevated architectural feature, known as a pulpit or an ambo, or from behind a lectern. The word sermon comes from a Middle English word which was derived from Old French, which in turn originates from the Latin word sermō meaning "discourse". A sermonette is a short sermon (usually associated with television broadcasting, as stations would present a sermonette before signing off for the night).
The Bible contains many speeches without interlocution, which some take to be sermons: Moses in Deuteronomy 1-33; Jesus' sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7; (though the gospel writers do not specifically call it a sermon; the popular descriptor for Christ's speech there came much later); Peter after Pentecost in Acts 2:14-40 (though this speech was delivered to nonbelievers and as such is not quite parallel to the popular definition of a sermon).
In Christianity, a sermon is typically identified as an address or discourse delivered to an assembly of Christians, typically containing theological or moral instruction. The sermon by Christian orators was partly based on the tradition of public lectures by classical orators. Although it is often called a homily, the original distinction between a sermon and a homily was that a sermon was delivered by a clergyman (licensed preacher) while a homily was read from a printed copy by a layman. In the 20th century the distinction has become one of the sermon being likely to be longer, have more structure, and contain more theological content. Homilies are usually considered to be a type of sermon, usually narrative or biographical, see sermon types below.
The word "sermon" is used to describe many famous moments in Christian (and Jewish) history. The most famous example is the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus of Nazareth. This address was given around 30 AD, and is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew (5:1–7:29, including introductory and concluding material) as being delivered on a mount on the north end of the Sea of Galilee, near Capernaum. It is also contained in some of the other gospel narratives.
During the later history of Christianity, several figures became known for their addresses that later became regarded as sermons. Examples in the early church include Peter (see especially Acts 2:14b–36), Stephen (see Acts 7:1b–53), Tertullian and John Chrysostom. These addresses were used to spread Christianity across Europe and Asia Minor, and as such are not sermons in the modern sense, but evangelistic messages.
The sermon has been an important part of Christian services since Early Christianity, and remains prominent in both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Lay preachers sometimes figure in these traditions of worship, for example the Methodist local preachers, but in general preaching has usually been a function of the clergy. The Dominican Order is officially known as the Order of Preachers (Ordo Praedicatorum in Latin); friars of this order were trained to publicly preach in vernacular languages, and the order was created by Saint Dominic to preach to the Cathars of southern France in the early 13th century. The Franciscans are another important preaching order; Travelling preachers, usually friars, were an important feature of late medieval Catholicism. In 1448 the church authorities seated at Angers prohibited open-air preaching in France. If a sermon is delivered during the Mass it comes after the Gospel is sung or read. If it is delivered by the priest or bishop that offers the Mass then he removes his maniple, and in some cases his chasuble, because the sermon is not part of the Mass. A bishop preaches his sermon wearing his mitre while seated whereas a priest, or on rare occasions a deacon, preaches standing and wearing his biretta.
In most denominations, modern preaching is kept below forty minutes, but historic preachers of all denominations could at times speak for several hours, and use techniques of rhetoric and theatre that are today somewhat out of fashion in mainline churches.
During the Middle Ages, sermons inspired the beginnings of new religious institutes (e.g., Saint Dominic and Francis of Assisi). Pope Urban II began the First Crusade in November 1095 at the Council of Clermont, France, when he exhorted French knights to retake the Holy Land.
The academic study of sermons, the analysis and classification of their preparation, composition and delivery, is called homiletics.
A controversial issue that aroused strong feelings in Early Modern Britain was whether sermons should be read from a fully prepared text, or extemporized, perhaps from some notes. Many sermons have been written down, collected and published; published sermons were a major and profitable literary form, and category of books in the book trade, from at least the Late Antique Church to about the late 19th century. Many clergymen openly recycled large chunks of published sermons in their own preaching. Such sermons include John Wesley's 53 Standard Sermons, John Chrysostom's Homily on the Resurrection (preached every Easter in Orthodox churches) and Gregory Nazianzus' homily "On the Theophany, or Birthday of Christ" (preached every Christmas in Orthodox churches). The 80 sermons in German of the Dominican Johannes Tauler (1300–1361) were read for centuries after his death. Martin Luther published his sermons (Hauspostille) on the Sunday lessons for the edification of readers. This tradition was continued by Chemnitz and Arndt and others into the following centuries—for example CH Spurgeon's stenographed sermons, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. The widow of John Tillotson (1630–1694), Archbishop of Canterbury received £2,500 for the manuscripts of his sermons, a very large sum.
The Reformation led to Protestant sermons, many of which defended the schism with the Roman Catholic Church and explained beliefs about the Bible, theology, and devotion. The distinctive doctrines of Protestantism held that salvation was by faith alone, and convincing people to believe the Gospel and place trust in God for their salvation through Jesus Christ was the decisive step in salvation.
In many Protestant churches, the sermon came to replace the Eucharist as the central act of Christian worship (although some Protestants such as Lutherans give equal time to a sermon and the Eucharist in their Divine Service). While Luther retained use of the lectionary for selecting texts for preaching, the Swiss Reformers, such as Ulrich Zwingli, Johannes Oecolampadius, and John Calvin, notably returned to the patristic model of preaching through books of the Bible. The goal of Protestant worship, as conditioned by these reforms, was above all to offer glory to God for the gift of grace in Jesus Christ, to rouse the congregation to a deeper faith, and to inspire them to practice works of love for the benefit of the neighbor, rather than carry on with potentially empty rituals.
One early female writer of sermons in England was Mary Deverell (1731–1805).
In the 18th and 19th centuries during the Great Awakening, major (evangelistic) sermons were made at revivals, which were especially popular in the United States. These sermons were noted for their "fire-and-brimstone" message, typified by Jonathan Edwards' famous "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" speech. In these sermons the wrath of God was intended to be made evident. Edwards also preached on Religious Affections, which discussed the divided Christian world.
Rabbinic ordination often includes the phrase, Rabbi, Teacher, and Preacher in Israel, and there is a long history of using sermons in Judaism as part of education, ethics, a call to repentance, or as a message of hope, often during difficult times.
In 1939, Rabbi Philip R. Alstat, an early leader of Conservative Judaism, spoke and wrote about the lesson of hope that the festival of Passover could give to the Jewish people, despite the rising power of Nazism in Europe: he counseled hope, and even gratitude, as part of Jewish strength to withstand the pain of events in Europe:
Perhaps in our generation the counsel of our Talmudic sages may seem superfluous, for today the story of our enslavement in Egypt is kept alive not only by ritualistic symbolism, but even more so by tragic realism. We are the contemporaries and witnesses of its daily re-enactment. Are not our hapless brethren in the German Reich eating "the bread of affliction"? Are not their lives embittered by complete disenfranchisement and forced labor? Are they not lashed mercilessly by brutal taskmasters behind the walls of concentration camps? Are not many of their men-folk being murdered in cold blood? Is not the ruthlessness of the Egyptian Pharaoh surpassed by the sadism of the Nazi dictators?
And yet, even in this hour of disaster and degradation, it is still helpful to "visualize oneself among those who had gone forth out of Egypt." It gives stability and equilibrium to the spirit. Only our estranged kinsmen, the assimilated, and the de-Judaized, go to pieces under the impact of the blow....But those who visualize themselves among the groups who have gone forth from the successive Egypts in our history never lose their sense of perspective, nor are they overwhelmed by confusion and despair.... It is this faith, born of racial experience and wisdom, which gives the oppressed the strength to outlive the oppressors and to endure until the day of ultimate triumph when we shall "be brought forth from bondage unto freedom, from sorrow unto joy, from mourning unto festivity, from darkness unto great light, and from servitude unto redemption.
In the same way, he preached a message of hope in 1938 when he said that, "Undaunted, we confidently expect that some day, somehow, the present low ebb of liberty and democracy will be followed by a rising tide whose onrush will irresistibly wash away the ramparts of tyranny." His sermons and articles targeted the Jewish community, the United States, the "family of nations," the "Jewish homeland in Palestine," and frequently described the importance of the "Jewish State"—a nation yet not created, but which he supported with both his words and his actions. He shared his vision of that State by proclaiming that, "Whether the Jewish State be large or small, its importance in the family of nations will be determined, not by its limited area, but by its creative genius and cultural contributions to mankind. Like Judaea and Athens of old, it may be only a small vessel, but exceedingly rich in precious content."
There are a number of different types of sermons, that differ both in their subject matter and by their intended audience, and accordingly not every preacher is equally well-versed in every type. The types of sermons are:
Sermons can be both written and spoken out loud.
Sermons also differ in the amount of time and effort used to prepare them.
With the advent of reception theory, researchers also became aware that how sermons are listened to affects their meaning as much as how they are delivered. The expectations of the congregation, their prior experience of listening to oral texts, their level of scriptural education, and the relative social positions—often reflected in the physical arrangement—of sermon-goers vis-a-vis the preacher are part of the meaning of the sermon.
Albert Raboteau describes a common style of Black preaching first developed in America in the early 19th century, and common throughout the 20th and into the 21st centuries:
In societies or communities with (for example) low literacy rates, strong habits of communal worship, and/or limited mass-media, the preaching of sermons throughout networks of congregations can have important informative and prescriptive propaganda functions for both civil and religious authorities - which may regulate the manner, frequency, licensing, personnel and content of preaching accordingly.
Historically, the American sermon has been one of the most vital forms of mass media. Few aspects of society have remained outside its purview and regulation.
[...] the most important of the homilies for our purposes is the tenth, 'An Exhortacion concerning Good Ordre and Obedience to Rulers and Magistrates'. It may have been written by Cranmer himself, although we cannot be sure. The sermon is proof that Tudor royal propaganda was directed at a mass audience.
The decrees of the Council of Trent that have to do with preaching spend a great deal of effort on regulation, stipulating where and when preaching has to occur, who is allowed to preach, how the vocation to be a preacher works, and so on. Episcopal oversight over preaching is particularly precisely regulated. Behind this juridicial regulation lies the attempt to avoid, under all circumstances, the penetration of Protestant preachers into Roman Catholic congregations.
The volume concludes with three appendixes of primary sources to aid understanding of the theories, reception, and regulation of preaching. The third of these ('Preaching Regulated') assembles in one place for the first time all the official acts and proclamations that governed preaching in England, Scotland and Ireland from the Reformation to the late seventeenth century.
[General Alamsjah,] the first Minister of Religious Affairs to develop the model of religious harmony in practice [...] developed a variety of policies increasingly instrusive in nature. [...] [T]he regime regulated how the kuliah subuh (sermon following the dawn prayer) should be presented through radio broadcasts.[...] It also made rules on the allowable terms, methods and contents of dakwah in sermons to audiences.[...] Moreover, certain technicalities on delivering dakwah or preaching were also tightly regulated. For example, the instructions of the Directorate-General of Islamic Guidance contained guidelines for the use of loudspeakers in mosques, and other smaller Islamic places of worship like mushalla and langgar.
The dictionary definition of preach at Wiktionary
Asalha Puja (known as Asanha Bucha in Thailand, Thai: อาสาฬหบูชา) is a Theravada Buddhist festival which typically takes place in July, on the full moon of the month of Āsādha. It is celebrated in Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar and in countries with Theravada Buddhist populations. Asalha Puja, also known as Dhamma Day, is one of Theravada Buddhism's most important festivals, celebrating as it does the Buddha's first sermon in which he set out to his five former associates the doctrine that had come to him following his enlightenment. This first pivotal sermon, often referred to as “setting into motion the wheel of dhamma,” is the teaching which is encapsulated for Buddhists in the four noble truths: there is suffering (dukkha); suffering is caused by craving (tanha); there is a state (nibbana) beyond suffering and craving; and finally, the way to nirvana is via the eightfold path. All the various schools and traditions of Buddhism revolve around the central doctrine of the four noble truths.
This first sermon is not only the first structured discourse given by the Buddha after his enlightenment, it also contains the essence of all his subsequent teaching. At the end of the talk, one of the five participants recounted his understanding of what had been said and asked to be received as a disciple, a request the Buddha granted, thus establishing the first order of monks.
The day is observed by donating offerings to temples and listening to sermons. The following day is known in Thailand as Thai: วันเข้าพรรษา Wan Khao Phansa; it is the first day of Thai: พรรษา vassa, the Theravada rains retreat.
In Indonesia, this festival is centered at Mendut Temple, near Borobudur.Beatitudes
The Beatitudes are eight blessings recounted by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Each is a proverb-like proclamation, without narrative. Four of the blessings also appear in the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke, followed by four woes which mirror the blessings.In the Vulgate, each of these blessings begins with the word beati, which translates to "happy", "rich", or "blessed" (plural adjective). The corresponding word in the original Greek is μακάριοι (makarioi), with the same meanings. Thus "Blessed are the poor in spirit" appears in Latin as beati pauperes spiritu. The Latin noun beātitūdō was coined by Cicero to describe a state of blessedness, and was later incorporated within the chapter headings written for Matthew 5 in various printed versions of the Vulgate. Subsequently, the word was anglicized to beatytudes in the Great Bible of 1540, and has, over time, taken on a preferred spelling of beatitudes.Buddhist eschatology
There are two major points of Buddhist eschatology: the appearance of Maitreya and the Sermon of the Seven Suns.Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (Pali; Sanskrit: Dharmacakrapravartana Sūtra; English: The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of the Dharma Sutta or Promulgation of the Law Sutta) is a Buddhist text that is considered by Buddhists to be a record of the first teaching given by Gautama Buddha in Sarnath after he attained enlightenment. The main topic of this sutta is the Four Noble Truths, which refer to and express the basic orientation of Buddhism in a formulaic expression. This sutta also refers to the Buddhist concepts of the Middle Way, impermanence, and dependent origination.Erick Sermon
Erick Sermon (born November 25, 1968) is an American rapper, musician, and record producer. Sermon is best known as one-third, alongside PMD & DJ Scratch, of late-1980s–1990s hip hop group EPMD and for production work.Faithful Word Baptist Church
Faithful Word Baptist Church is a fundamentalist Independent Baptist church in Tempe, Arizona, in the United States that was founded by Pastor Steven Anderson. The church describes itself as "an old-fashioned, independent, fundamental, King James Bible only, soul winning Baptist church." Members of the church meet in an office space located in a strip mall. Anderson established the church in December 2005 and remains its pastor.
In August 2009, the church received national attention when Anderson stated in a sermon that he was praying for the death of then-President Barack Obama. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) listed Faithful Word Baptist Church as an anti-gay "hate group", citing its pastor's "extremely radical stance" that homosexuals, if judged according to the Law of Moses, should be executed. Since then, as the church has grown, it has received media attention for its documentary Marching to Zion, which the Anti-Defamation League labelled anti-semitic; media attention has also focused on the pastor being refused entry to Jamaica, Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union and The Republic of Ireland.Farewell Sermon
The Farewell Sermon (Arabic: خطبة الوداع, Khuṭbatu l-Wadāʿ), also known as Muhammad's Final Sermon or the Last Sermon, is believed by Muslims to have been delivered by the Islamic prophet, Muhammad on the 9th of Dhu al-Hijjah, 10 AH (6 March 632) in the Uranah valley of Mount Arafat, during the Islamic pilgrimage of Hajj.
Muhammad al-Bukhari refers to the sermon and quotes part of it in his Sahih al-Bukhari. Part of it is also present in Sahih Muslim and Sunan Abu Dawood. Various versions of the sermon have been published, including several English translations. The sermon consists of a series of general exhortations for Muslims to follow the teachings that Muhammad had set forth in the Quran and sunnah.Folliott Cornewall
Folliott Herbert Walker Cornewall (1754–1831) was an English bishop of three sees.Homily
A homily is a commentary that follows a reading of scripture. In Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox Churches, a homily is usually given during Mass (Divine Liturgy or Holy Qurbana for Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, and Divine Service for the Lutheran Church) at the end of the Liturgy of the Word. Many people consider it synonymous with a sermon.Hymn of the day
The hymn of the day is a congregational hymn that is centered on the theme of the lectionary texts for a given Sunday divine service.
The practice was developed by Lutherans and is currently in use in other denominations. According to Carl Schalk, the hymn of the day came out of the singing of the gradual which is sung before the epistle reading.Generally, it is used during the Word section of the liturgy, but can vary in its placement depending on which Lutheran hymnal is used. For example, the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) suggests that the hymn of the day be placed either immediately before or after the sermon. The newer Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), however, only suggests its use after the sermon. The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) suggests that the hymn of the day precede the sermon, with the Apostle's Creed interposed between the hymn of the day and the sermon.
Regardless of placement, some Lutherans, including Schalk, believe this to be the most important hymn in the worship service.Jumu'ah
Jumu'ah (Arabic: صلاة الجمعة, ṣalāt al-jumu‘ah), also known as Friday Prayer or Congregational Prayer, is a prayer (ṣalāt) that Muslims hold every Friday, just after noon instead of the Zuhr prayer. Muslims ordinarily pray five times each day according to the sun's sky path regardless of time zones.Khutbah
Khutbah (Arabic: خطبة khuṭbah, Turkish: hutbe) serves as the primary formal occasion for public preaching in the Islamic tradition.
Such sermons occur regularly, as prescribed by the teachings of all legal schools. The Islamic tradition can be formally observed at the dhuhr (noon) congregation prayer on Friday. In addition, similar sermons are called for on the two festival days.Matthew 5
Matthew 5 is the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. It contains the first portion of the Sermon on the Mount, which will also take up chapter 6, and chapter 7. Portions are similar to the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6, but much is found only in Matthew.
In John Wesley's division of the Sermon, chapter five outlines the ethical principles of the truly religious. It is one of the most discussed and analyzed chapters of the New Testament. Kissinger reports that among Early Christians no chapter was more often cited by early scholars. The same is true in modern scholarship. In the Middle Ages an interpretation was developed that the chapter only applied to a select group, and not to the general populace. Martin Luther, in a discussion of this chapter, was highly critical of the Catholic view. He wrote that "there have fallen upon this [fifth] chapter the vulgar hogs and asses, jurists and sophists, the right hand of the pope and his Mamelukes."The source of Matthew 5 is uncertain. It contains only a handful of parallels with Mark, but does have a number of loose parallels with Luke's Sermon on the Plain. For those who believe in the two-source hypothesis, it indicates that much of this text likely came from Q. However, Harvey King McArthur notes that the parallels in Luke tend to be very loose, far further away than most areas they overlap. There are also a considerable number of verses that have no parallel in Luke. McArthur thus theorizes that there was an extra step between the sources Matthew and Luke used than usual.Nahj al-Balagha
The Nahj al-Balagha (Arabic: نهج البلاغة Nahj-ul Balāgha(h), Arabic pronunciation: [ˈnahdʒul baˈlaːɣa]; "The Peak of Eloquence ") is the most famous collection of sermons, letters, tafsirs and narrations attributed to Ali, cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad. It was collected by Sharif Razi,
a Shia scholar in the 10th century CE (4th century AH) Known for its eloquent content, it is considered a masterpiece of literature in Shia Islam.Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount (anglicized from the Matthean Vulgate Latin section title: Sermo in monte) is a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus Christ, which emphasizes his moral teaching found in the Gospel of Matthew (chapters 5, 6, and 7). It is the first of the Five Discourses of Matthew and takes place relatively early in the Ministry of Jesus after he has been baptized by John the Baptist, had fasted and contemplated in the desert, and began to preach in Galilee.
The Sermon is the longest continuous discourse of Jesus found in the New Testament, and has been one of the most widely quoted elements of the Canonical Gospels. It includes some of the best known teachings of Jesus, such as the Beatitudes, and the widely recited Lord's Prayer. The Sermon on the Mount is generally considered to contain the central tenets of Christian discipleship.Sermon on the Plain
In Christianity, the Sermon on the Plain refers to a set of teachings by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, in 6:17–49.
This sermon may be compared to the longer Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew.Luke 6:12–20a details the events leading to the sermon. In it, Jesus spent the night on a mountain praying to God. Two days later, he gathered his disciples and selected 12 of them, whom he named Apostles. On the way down from the mountain, he stood at "a level place" (ἐπὶ τόπου πεδινοῦ, epi topou pedinou) where a throng of people had gathered. After curing those with "unclean spirits", Jesus began what is now called the Sermon on the Plain.
Notable messages in the Sermon include:
The beatitudes and woes (6:20–26)
Love your enemies and turn the other cheek (6:27–36)
Treat others the way you want to be treated (6:31)
Don't judge and you won't be judged, don't condemn and you won't be condemned, forgive and you will be forgiven, give and you will receive (6:37–38)
Can the blind lead the blind? Disciples are not above their teacher (6:39-40a)
Remove the log from your own eye before attending to the splinter in your friend's (40b-42)
A good tree does not produce bad fruit and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit, each tree is known by its fruit (43–45)
Why do you call me Lord, Lord yet not do what I command? (46)
Whoever follows these words of mine builds on rock and will survive, whoever does not builds on sand and will be destroyed (47–49)In Luke 7:1 after Jesus had said everything he had to say to the crowd, he went to Capernaum, which in Lukan chronology he had not visited since Luke 4:31.The Sermon (Jimmy Smith album)
The Sermon! is a 1959 album by jazz organist Jimmy Smith. It was produced by the Blue Note record label, and was Smith's fifteenth album in three years. Allmusic's Lindsay Planer described the album as "a prime example of Smith and company's myriad of talents".The Sermon of St. Stephen (Carpaccio)
The Sermon of Saint Stephen is an oil-on-canvas by Italian artist of the Venetian school Vittore Carpaccio, painted in 1514. It is now in the Louvre in Paris.Thomas Secker
Thomas Secker (21 September 1693 – 3 August 1768) was the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Church of England.