Evangelium och existens före Luther

Translated title of the contribution: Gospel and Existence before Luther

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearch


The article contains an edition, Swedish translation and study of a fifteenth-century Easter sermon written in Latin at the Birgittine Abbey of Vadstena, in a postil produced for the curate of Björkvik, who, we may presume, used it as a resource when preparing vernacular sermons for his parishioners. The study is not simply an introduction and historical commentary. Rather, it proceeds from the homiletic principles worked out by Bernice Sundkvist in her book, "Evangelium och existens: predikan som helande dialog" ("Gospel and Existence: Preaching as a Healing Dialogue"). It is explicitly an experiment: Sundkvist's principles proceed from the homiletic thought of Martin Luther and primarily envisage Lutheran preaching. Can their application to a pre-Lutheran sermon be meaningful? The study concentrates on this problem, directing attention to what obstacles arise and why. The main results are the following:

1) Sundkvist argues that preaching has a sacramental aspect in Lutheran homiletics, since it makes the salvific work of Jesus Christ present "for us". The medieval sermon is Christocentric, but does not seem to regard itself as having a sacramental quality. Rather, it is conscious of being situated within the sacramental system of the Church, which, taken as a whole, mediates salvation through Christ.

2) A Lutheran sermon should encourage a firm faith in God's promises, particularly the promise of forgiveness for sins. The medieval sermon does not have this emphasis, but presents a God who is both loving and demanding, desiring his children to be not only believers but holy. However, both kinds of sermon offer hope and a means of return to those who have fallen away from faith and/or right living.

3) Dialogue is an important word for Sundkvist: a sermon should in essence be dialogical, articulating the thoughts and questions of the audience. The medieval sermon is, on the contrary, didactic in an authoritarian way. However, this is what was expected of a medieval preacher, serving a God who was commonly thought of as an exalted sovereign. If we look beyond the authoritarian style, we find that the sermon connects in many ways with the daily life of its audience.

The conclusion of the study is that the medieval sermon does transmit the Gospel of salvation by grace and does connect with the existential realities of its audience, but differently, because their existence was different from ours.
Translated title of the contributionGospel and Existence before Luther
Original languageSwedish
Title of host publicationDen kommunikativa kyrkan
Subtitle of host publicationFestskrift till Bernice Sundkvist på 60-årsdagen
EditorsBirgitta Sarelin, Mikael Lindfelt
Place of PublicationSkellefteå
PublisherArtos & Norma
Number of pages36
ISBN (Print)978-91-7580-791-1
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Religious Studies
  • Specific Literatures

Free keywords

  • preaching
  • preaching in the Middle Ages
  • homiletics
  • Vadstena Abbey
  • Lutheran theology
  • ecclesiology
  • pastoral theology


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