Scripture, Narrative, and Liturgical Reflection: A Three-Legged Model for Liturgical Preaching Open Access

Weldon, James (Spring 2018)

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In a world where the church is undergoing rapid changes, those who preach regularly struggle to identify how to preach well. In 2014, Bishop Eugene Sutton suggested that Episcopal parishes must emphasize worshiping well in the face of demographic changes, and he proposed a three-legged stool of liturgical worship: liturgy, music, and preaching. This project attempts to answer his call by identifying excellent preaching in the liturgical tradition, and how it faces various challenges brought on by changes in culture and lack of catechesis. At Fred Craddock’s Beecher Lectures at Yale in 1978, he emphasized the preacher as one who acknowledges people’s knowledge of the Christian story. By 2009, Tom Long observed this was no longer applicable.

A liturgical sermon is unique in that it belongs to the larger work of the liturgy. When preached ineffectively, a sermon comes off like a “liturgical interruption.” When preached well, a liturgical sermon links scripture and proclamation to sacramental action and prayers. Borrowing from Karl Barth, liturgical preachers accomplish this by going into the pulpit with Bible, newspaper, and prayer book in hand. Drawing on each of these allows for a synthesis so a sermon may be more like the liturgy to which it belongs. It allows those who listen multiple ways of connecting to the liturgy, the scriptures of the day, and the stories of life.


Based on Richard Hooker’s three-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, and in keeping with the practical three-legged stool of Bishop Sutton, this paper identifies a practical three-legged stool of Scripture, Narrative, and Liturgical Reflection. Examples are found specifically in the preaching of Fleming Rutledge and Hans Urs von Balthasar. By identifying and describing liturgical preaching this way, a preacher can more easily understand and emulate excellent preaching in this tradition. The goal in doing so is not to create homiletical excellence per se, but to make the claims of the sermon accessable to those who worship, to bring people nearer to the sacraments on multiple levels in order to bring them closer to the means of grace.

Table of Contents

Introduction and Statement of Problem

Uninterrupted Liturgy

Imagining a Liturgical Sermon

The Three-Legged Stool: Scripture, Narrative, and Liturgical Reflection    

Seven Sermons based on the Three-Legged Stool




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