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Preaching from Year C, May to July 2022

08 March 2022

Kerygmatic Preaching

Features Editor, Roman Catholic Deacon in the Westminster Diocese, and retired Principal Lecturer in Theology, St Mary’s University, Twickenham

As John Deehan reminds us in his Preaching in Acts; preaching from Acts, ‘the real subject of Acts is not the history of the early church, or even the prominent human actors in that history, Peter and Paul, but the Word of God.’ The content of Word of God that we find in the sermons in the Acts of the Apostles is the Kerygma (or Kerugma) a Greek word (from kersey, to proclaim, and keryx, herald). These sermons, ascribed by the author to Peter and Paul, represent an early form of the Kerygma, or proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, and they provide a model and guide for every preacher.

The sermons in Acts (2:14-36, 3:12-26, 4:8-12, 5:29-32, 7:1-53, 10:34-43, 13:16-41,14:15-17, 17:22-31, 20:17-35) serve to remind us that there is a difference between teaching abstract theological truths or moral instruction, and proclaiming the saving events of what God has done through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

 

A NEW AGE OF FULFILMENT

In his summary of the message in the sermons in Acts, the great pioneer of Kerygmatic thought, C.H. Dodd, identified the central message that the ‘kerygma in Acts lays emphasis upon the Holy Spirit in the Church as the sign that the new age of fulfilment has begun’ (The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments, 1935, London).

This sign is both call and invitation. In the words of Joseph A. Jungmann, one of the influential thinkers of the Second Vatican Council, ‘the Kerygma is more about a testimony of the good news, of the message of glad tidings of Christ than it is a set of theological truths … At all times the preaching of the faith must be oriented towards the kerygma; and Christocentricity is essential to the kerygma.’ (Announcing the Word of God. Joseph A. Jungmann, trans. Ronald Walls, 1967, London).

 

CHRIST CENTRIC PREACHING

The Christ centred Kerygma in Acts includes these basic elements: that the prophecies of the end times in the Jewish Scriptures have been fulfilled; that this has already happened through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; that he is now exalted as Lord and Christ; his return will bring about the consummation of the New Age, and finally, that there is an invitation to repentant, to find forgiveness, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and salvation to eternal life.

Only three of the sermons that follow in this issue preach directly on texts from the Acts to the Apostles. But although sermons do not need to follow the structure of the kerygmatic sermons in Acts, the basic elements in these sermons reappear throughout: that a new age with new opportunities has arrived, that it fulfils the hopes and promises of the Older Covenant; that the Christ who died for us is at the centre of the Good News; that his Second Coming will bring the completion of our hopes, and that all are invited to find repentance and forgiveness.

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