This is #39 in Crossing the Threshold series.
The second act of the Hero Journey is divided into two parts; descent and initiation, as is the second act of worship; word and sacrament. I think it will become abundantly clear why the two parts of Act II should never become separated; they are two parts of one act.
Act II commences with the crossing of the first threshold as the hero descends further into the special world. At this point he is fully engaged, committed to the adventure and the story really takes off. In worship having entered into the courts of heaven with praise and thanksgiving, having been equipped with the word of God which has been read, the congregation is ready to begin its own descent and cross the first threshold going deeper into the kingdom with the sermon. The fact that your heart just went thud shows how much of the story has been lost….so we need to pause here and exercise our imagination.
I want you to place yourself in a company of soldiers on the front line of an imminent battle in World War II. Your commanding officer has orders he believes are accurate when suddenly a messenger with a word from the highest command breaks through enemy lines informing him it’s a trap (This is the plot line of the excellent movie 1917 by the way). Wouldn’t it be good to know this vital information?
The sermon should be viewed as a message from the High King of Heaven carried by the Holy Spirit to the Pastor who with his/her congregation is on the front lines in a very real spiritual battle informing them of what they need to know….now.
This part of the service has to be seen in this context for the church’s mission is to implement Jesus’ victory of the cross in the world. The sermon contains orders; the creed is our response, a willingness to receive and obey; the prayers of the people are the weapons we engage with, and at the very bottom of our descent is the inner most cave of confession of sin and absolution. We are to be holy people; royal priests who die to self, pick up our own cross and follow the King.