In sacramental traditions, the concept of preaching, and even the corporate reading of Scripture, is different than in revivalist traditions. It is about God literally acting through the spoken word.
I know pastors who don’t think, for example, that the lectionary readings should even be printed in the bulletin. The words presented in worship are not given to be read by individual worshipers, but to be heard together by the congregation. The word spoken is the living word of God, and there is something special and sacred about the act of listening to God speak. There is also something special about being gathered with God’s family to be addressed by God and to be together as a people under his word.
Of course, holding this theology doesn’t mean it always translates into practice. But understanding the preaching moment as being of the same piece as the rest of the liturgy, in my opinion, has advantages over other views which see preaching in its essence as rhetoric, apologetics, persuasion, or teaching. Such conceptions highlight the skills of the person in the pulpit and the techniques employed, whereas a more sacramental view highlights God’s action through human speech (no matter how weak or flawed the human speaker).
John Frye, in his weekly “Shepherd’s Nook” post at Jesus Creed, has summarized this sacramental theology of preaching nicely:
Preaching, in some traditions, is a sacrament or comparable to a sacrament. Low church evangelicalism will have to ponder this. What it means is: preaching is more about what God does, than what the preacher and congregation do. Preaching is a holy event when the preacher and the preached to encounter the living God together. The aim of preaching is community-encounter with the living, eyes-blazing Christ Who walks in the community’s ordinary, particular midst. Revelation chapters 2-3 are not just about the living Christ showing up a long time ago to seven churches in Asia Minor. The glorified Jesus, as Lord of his church, still walks around in the midst of local gatherings.
In preaching as sacrament, the aim is the application. Encounter God. Preaching as biblical information-giving with premeditated applications is too weak for such a cogent and holy aim. To be informed by the Bible about God is not the same as to be encountered by the God of the Bible. We preach to encounter God together, not to create a set of preferred human behaviors. Encounter with God in Christ carries its own energies to shape and direct human lives. We preach for corporate encounter with God, believing that encounter will provoke numerous discussions about how we together can live missionally in light of the encounter. Paul suggested even unbelievers and unconvinced will confess an encounter with God (1 Corinthians 14:25) when the church gathers. I do not think I have to unpack Peter’s paradigmatic sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2) to support what I am writing here. Peter, so perceptive of his particular context, announced an act of God in Christ and the announcement was so profound the congregation asked him, “What must we do?!” Authentic kingdom of God gospel announcement (preaching) evokes startling and diverse questions about how we go about adjusting our lives to Jesus as Lord.