Someone once asked, “What’s the difference between a sermon and a homily?” Well, one answer is that a sermon is a long or tedious piece of admonition or reproof; a homily is a tedious moralizing discourse that goes on for too long. In other words, not much. While there are any number of jokes about sermons and homilies, preaching has been part of Christian worship for as long as we’re able to discern. It’s something we’ve inherited from synagogue Judaism. We can see an example of this in Jesus himself in the beginning of his ministry [St Luke 4:16-30 In this story, we can see that the preacher is not always favorably received!]. As preaching has been around for a very long time, there are a number of sermons that are famous enough to be remembered over time. One, the Easter Homily of St John Chrysostom [the Golden-mouthed] has been read in Orthodox churches each Easter since about the year 400.
The location of the sermon in proximity to the lessons gives a strong clue about the topic for preaching. Simply put, we are to allow these lessons to give commentary and instruction to our lives in this time. And as our worship is seen as a communal act, we are to understand that the words of the Lessons read are working on all of us together. The stories of the Bible are to shape our lives in this time. The preacher, hopefully, opens up the possibility of what these ancient words can mean in our lives and our present world.