In Christianity, a sermon (also known as a homily within the Catholic Church) is often delivered in a place of worship, most of which have a pulpit or ambo, an elevated architectural feature. The word "sermon" comes from a Middle English word which was derived from an Old French term, which in turn came from the Latin word sermō; ("discourse"). The word can mean "conversation", which could mean that early sermons were delivered in the form of question and answer, and that only later did it come to mean a monologue. In contrast to this, is the examples from the Bible, where sermons are speeches without interlocution: Moses' sermon in Deuteronomy 1-33 ; Jesus' sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7 ; Peter's sermon after Pentecost in Acts 2:14-40
In modern language, the word "sermon" can also be used pejoratively in secular terms to describe a lengthy or tedious speech delivered with great passion, by any person, to an uninterested audience. A sermonette is a short sermon (usually associated with television broadcasting, as stations would present a sermonette before signing off for the night).
In rabbinic Judaism, homiletical literature is found primarily in various forms of Biblical exegesis, known as midrash. Sermons center around Torah study and, as is prevalent in the modern period, during prayer services.
In Islam, the Khutba (Arabic: (خطبة khuṭbah) is a sermon delivered before Friday prayers and after Eid prayers. There is also a khutba delivered during Hajj in the plains of Arafat, just outside Mecca. This khutba addresses the entire Muslim nation, as its message is carried back by pilgrims to their respective homelands.
In Christianity, the most famous sermon is the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus of Nazareth. This sermon was probably preached around 30 A.D. and is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew (5:1 - 7:29, including introductory and concluding material) as being delivered on a mount on the north end of the Sea of Galilee, near Capernaum. The Sermon on the Mount lays out many of the core principles of Christianity. Another rendition of much of the same material may be found in the "Sermon on the Plain" in the Gospel of Luke (6:17 - 49, including introductory material).
During the later history of Christianity, several figures became known for their sermons or a particularly significant sermon. Preachers of the early church include Peter (see especially Acts 2:14b - 36), Stephen (see Acts 7:1b - 53), Tertullian, John Chrysostom, Gregory Nazianzus. Sermons in this era were used to spread Christianity across Europe and Asia Minor. During the Middle Ages, sermons inspired the beginnings of new religious orders (eg, Saint Dominic and Francis of Assisi). Pope Urban II began the First Crusade in November 1095 at the Council of Clermont, France, when he exhorted French knights to retake the Holy Land in Palestine.
In the Roman Catholic tradition, the art of preaching has developed through the theological field of homiletics.
Many sermons have been written down, collected and published. Such sermons include John Wesley's 53 Standard Sermons, John Chrysostom's Homily on the Resurrection (preached every Easter in Orthodox churches) and Gregory Nazianzus' homily "On the Theophany, or Birthday of Christ" (preached every Christmas in Orthodox churches). Martin Luther began a tradition of publishing sermons (Hauspostille) on the Sunday lessons for the edification of readers. This tradition was continued by Chemnitz and Arndt and others into the following centuries - for example CH Spurgeon's stenographed sermons, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit.
In the 1700s and 1800s during the Great Awakening, major sermons were made at revivals, which were especially popular in the United States. These sermons were noted for their "fire-and-brimstone" message, typified by Jonathan Edwards's famous "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" speech. In these sermons the wrath of God was clearly one to be afraid of, although fear was not the message Edwards was trying to convey in his sermons, he was simply trying to tell the people that they could be forgiven for their sins.
There are a number of different types of preaching, that differ both by their subject matter and by their intended audience. and accordingly not every preacher is well-versed in each type. The types of preaching are:
It is worth noting that sermons can be both written and spoken out loud.
Sermons also differ on the amount of time and effort used to prepare them.
With the advent of recption theory, researchers also became aware that how how sermons are listened to affects their meaning as much as how they are delivered. The expectations of the congregation, their prior experience of listening to oral texts, their level of scriptural education, and the relative social positions - often reflected in the physical arrangement - of sermon-goers vis-a-vis the preacher are part of the meaning of the sermon.