- God loves you and has plan for your life. – Yes, God the Father loves you and seeks you. And that ache in your heart, that longing, that yearning, and that “never satisfied” quality in your desires all point to God and he has written his name in your heart. He wants to turn you away from a passing and unsatisfying world, towards him. He wants to save you and prepare you to live with him for all eternity. He wants to fill the God sized hole in your heart and its infinite longing with his infinite Love. (CCC 1).
- Sin will destroy you. – Nothing is so destructive in your life and this world as sin. It is desire gone wrong, it is rooted in the lie that the creature rather than the Creator can help and save us. Cultivating sin will put you in bondage to desires gone mad that will not ultimately be satisfied. Satan is lying to you and saying that rebellion form the One who made will bring happiness to you. It will not. And you know this already don’t you? Sin and indulgence does not ultimately satisfy. The world cannot satisfy, for it is finite and your desire is infinite. Sin does not ultimately bring happiness, it brings bondage, addiction, dissatisfaction, and ultimately resentment and spiritual death.
- Christ Jesus died to save you. – Into this mess of our wayward desires and our foolish grasping at worldly trinkets Jesus came. He met the woman at the well (who is us) and told her that every who drinks form this well (the world) will be thirsty again. In other words, the world cannot ultimately satisfy or save us. We must die to this world and rise to God. But our way to God was cut off by sin. Jesus came and reopened the way to the Father by dying to this world, to its lies and false claims. Rising and Ascending he has re-opened the way to the Father, our hearts true desire. Now we can be saved by being led back to the Father by the saving power of Jesus. And dying to this world, we can one day fully be satisfied by God.
- Repent and believe the Gospel. – To repent means to come to a new mind, to come to understand and accept all that has been stated: that the Lord loves me, is calling me in my desires, and want to save me from the sinful drives that will destroy me. It is time for me to come to believe in this Love God has form me and accept the promise and salvation of his love: Jesus Christ and the saving truth he proclaims.
- Be Baptized and receive the Holy Spirit. – And thus in Baptism our sins are washed away, we are incorporated into Christ, we become a member of his body. And having done so, the Holy Spirit, the life, love, serenity, joy and wisdom of God comes to dwell in me and begins a work of transforming me, that includes the other Sacraments as well.
- Abide in Christ and his body the Church. – Grow in this relationship with Jesus and His Father in the Holy Spirit by living in the life of the Church, which is Jesus presence and Body in this world. Abide there, that is go on dwelling there.
- Go make disciples. – And so the cycle repeats with the newly Evangelized and more deeply rooted Christian calling others.
Fr. Andreas Hoeck, S.S.D. At the Quinn Institute of Biblical Studies points out the progression of Kerygmatic messages in Acts.
There is a geographical progress of the witness to Jesus Christ, and the great speeches of Acts are in accord with this scheme: beginning in Jerusalem (chs. 2-7; first three speeches 2:14-40 to Jews and proselytes; 3:12-26 to Jews; 7:2-53 to Sanhedrin), proceeding further to Judea and Samaria (chs. 8-11; Peter’s speech to the proselyte Cornelius and his household, 10:34-43), and finally going to the ends of the earth (chs. 13ff; three speeches by Paul to the gentiles 13:16-41; 17:22– 31; 20:25-28; two before kings 24:10-21 [Felix]; 26:2-23 [Agrippa]; two before Jewish audiences, 22:1-21; 28:25-28).
The Sermons in the bible all contained three fundamental elements. And, while the sermons may not follow this exact order, sometimes interweaving the three themes together, these three basic elements are most consistent:
- Effect–there is some event, usually a healing which in effect generates the audience.
- Explanation–there is an explanation for the events presented that is rooted in Jesus Christ and setting forth how he fulfills prophecy, is the longed-for Messiah. The Paschal mystery, that Christ was killed through our sinfulness, but rose gloriously triumphant, is at the heart of this explanation. And this Paschal mystery is the power through which all healing takes place. This same Jesus, now exulted at the Father’s right hand is Judge and Lord of the world.
- Exhortation – there is an appeal to repentance and the call to receive Jesus Christ in faith.
Not all eight of the sermons develop each of these points as fully as others. But these are the essential elements. As we shall see, the final sermon on the list, the one St. Paul preached at the meeting of the Areopagus (Acts 17:22–31), barely qualifies as a kerygmatic sermon, though it is commonly listed as one of the eight. More on this in a moment.
As an example of the kerygmatic sermons, let’s look at Peter’s second sermon in Acts 3:12-26:
Acts 3:12-26 – When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. “Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.’ “Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”
So Lets look at the Three basic elements of this sermon:
I. Effect– The first verse says When Peter saw this [i.e. their astonishment], he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?”
Note then, we are looking at a fact, that is to say, an event that has taken place, something that is observable. In this case, a man who had been crippled from birth, was healed, and he not only walked, but he danced!
This visible effect of God’s grace had the additional effect of drawing a crowd who were now ready to listen to St. Peter. Indeed, six of the eight kerygmatic sermons but one has some triggering event that gathered at the crowd, eager to listen. In the first kerygmatic sermon it had been the rushing wind of Pentecost, the noise that gathered the crowd and then also the gift of tongues, wherein each are heard the apostles speaking in their own native language. In other cases it was an indeterminate list of “signs and wonders” (Acts 5:12) that sets the stage. In another case, it was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and his family with visible effects, that occasioned the sermon (Acts 10:34 ff). On yet another occasion, it was the cure of another cripple, in this case by St. Paul and Barnabas, in the town of Lystra (Acts 14:8–13).
Thus, some event, some observable effect, sets up of the sermon in six of the eight Kerygmatic sermons.
Now we may ask, “Does this mean that we have to show forth works and miracles in order to preach the Gospel?” And the answer is, “Yes!” It may not necessarily be miraculous physical cures. But surely this effect is required, the miracle of a transformed life on the part of the one who announces Jesus Christ. At some very obvious level we have got to be able to demonstrate to those to whom we preach, and announce Jesus Christ, that we are not merely announcing some facts about an historical figure, or the doctrines of the Church, but also, that we are announcing a Man we have personally met, the Lord who has transformed our life.
We, our very selves, are to be the effect, to be the event which draws the crowd, or even one listener, who will hear of Jesus Christ. Kerygmatic preaching is not merely about doctrines, it is not merely about information, it is about announcing, and witnessing to, transformation, personal transformation in Christ Jesus.
Those who preach the kerygma, must preach it as first-hand witnesses, as witnesses who have met Jesus Christ, and who know what he is doing in their life. Kerygmatic preaching is not a technique that can simply be learned by articulate spokesmen, it is a relationship that must be received, experienced, and thereby announced.
The early Christians, indeed, the Apostles, did not simply announce formulas, creeds, and doctrines; important those these things are. Rather, they announced a person, Jesus Christ, whom they had met. As St. John says in his first letter: “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon, and touch with our own hands… What we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you!” (1 John 1:ff)
And here explains one reason why the Kerygma, is so rarely make use of today. For it presupposes a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. There will be little effective evangelization apart from a personal proclamation of Jesus Christ. Don’t miss step one of the Kerygma!
II. – Explanation–in explaining how a crippled man has been healed, Peter takes no credit of his own. He attributes it all to the risen Lord Jesus Christ. I
Peter goes on to declare the Paschal mystery, saying, that though this world killed him, God the Father raised him from the dead. Peter says that he is of witness of this very fact.
Then, St. Peter diverts briefly to a call to conversion in verse 17 and 18 and reverts to the fact that everything that happened to Jesus Christ, was prophesied in the Scriptures, by the prophets.
Of course, in an exhortation directed to a secular world, which does not accept the veracity or authority of Scripture, one cannot rely entirely on demonstrating prophetic fulfillment. One should however be able to demonstrate the reasonableness of Jesus Christ, by showing that he does not emerge out of nowhere. Rather, he emerges after centuries of being prefigured, longed for, and announced.
Remember too, the starting point of kerygmatic preaching is not fine points of Scripture, but the wonderful reality of miracles worked and/or transformed lives. The evidence, for a secularist, while it cannot begin with Scripture, can nevertheless find additional reassurance in the ancient prophecies of Scripture, but this assurance is rooted in an effect which is evidently before them, namely the proof of a transformed life, or of a miracle. In this context of credibility,
But note this key point, kerygmatic preaching, does not start with the Scripture, but with the effect, the effect of transformed human being. We simply have to accept, that to the secular world, someone like Mother Teresa is going to have greater credibility than some holier than thou dude trying to win an argument by out-quoting their opponent.
Kerygmatic preaching opens the book of Scripture, but only after demonstrating the power and the wisdom of Jesus Christ through healing and transformation. One of the great dangers of today is that too many Christians who would witness to Christ, seem little better little more reformed than an average pagan. Too many Christians who say they know Christ do not live lives that really show that. Many come across as self-righteous, arrogant, persnickety with details, yet missing the larger points of love, generosity, charity, holiness and joy. There can be little kerygmatic preaching in the absence of an effect.
III. Exhortation–St. Peter concludes his sermon with a warning, quoting Moses, The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people. In the last line of the sermon, Peter exhorts the people to experience the same blessings of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, that they had just witnessed in the healing of this crippled man, by turning from their wicked ways. Thus he exhorts repentance, but, once again, in the light of true evidence of the power, majesty and lordship of Jesus Christ.
And thus we see that kerygmatic preaching is rooted not merely in reason or in discourse, but is rooted in experience, the experience of the miracle of healing and/or the experience of a transformed human person, preferably the preacher himself.
Ultimately, the call for a return to the kerygma then must be seen as a call for preachers, prophets, disciples, and members of the Church to return to a preaching of the fundamentals of Jesus Christ as a starting point. But this preaching must be rooted in a first-hand witness, in the credibility of someone who can show forth signs and wonders. And the chief sign, the most convincing miracle, is not usually the sort of miracle that many suspect are staged anyway, as TV evangelists of the past have sometimes done.
The chief miracle to behold is the witness of a transformed human being who shows forth the glory of love, serenity, of the obvious fact of sins having been put to death, and replaced by graceful and godly living. The greatest miracle to seek is a transformed human being, absent of pride and gluttony, lust and anger, but possessed by love, charity, generosity, kindness, self-discipline and authority over their passions.
St. Peter counseled the early Christians, and us that we should always be ready to render an account for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15). And in this, he establishes the basis for kerygmatic preaching. Namely, that someone notices a hope that is within us, and then, when they ask about it, we are ready to render an account, to announce Jesus Christ. Here is the doorway to kerygmatic preaching, the miracle, the event, of a transformed human person.
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