The field sermon – 18 February 2019

A minister stands to preach a sermon to a small gathered crowd who sit on the hillside. His posture, raised head and hand, indicate direct and firm speech. Those listening sit quietly, their attention on the man who preaches. The majority of the listeners are wives and daughters of fishermen, their faces can be seen. They know a hard life, with loved ones often lost at sea. They wear black scarves if they are widows, white if they are not. The men towards the edge of the congregation have more hidden features, but this picture is not so much about them as the women, who hear the spoken word and think carefully about it from the context of demanding and troubled lives.

This picture ‘A field sermon’, 1903, is by the Danish artist Anna Ancher, who was a member of the artistic community in Skagen, the only member to paint scenes from the religious lives of the local people. The colour palette of the picture is limited to greens and muted browns, so that the composition has a settled feel. Only the very top left is light and bright, indicating a sunnier horizon that the listeners to the sermon can see as they look beyond the preacher. Are those who have gathered hearing good news? Is the preacher bringing them ‘good tidings of great joy’? Will the sermon help the listeners to persevere, or will it do more than this?


I would not have preachers torment their hearers, and detail them with long and tedious preaching.

To preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free and to save it.

Martin Luther


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Lord, thy word abideth,
and our footsteps guideth;
who its truth believeth
light and joy receiveth.

When the storms are o’er us,
and dark clouds before us,
then its light directeth,
and our way protecteth.

Word of mercy, giving
succour to the living;
word of life, supplying
comfort to the dying.

O that we discerning
its most holy learning,
Lord, may love and fear thee,
evermore be near thee!

H W Baker (1861)