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The Preparation for the Sermon

The Preparation for the Sermon

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Published by David Juhl
A translation of a paper written by Prof. Fr. Streckfuß of Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, IL on how to prepare to write a sermon. This is a rough translation so errors are to be expected.
A translation of a paper written by Prof. Fr. Streckfuß of Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, IL on how to prepare to write a sermon. This is a rough translation so errors are to be expected.

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: David Juhl on Aug 16, 2010
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10/25/2012

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The Preparation for the Sermon
Among all the official duties of a pastor, public preaching is not only the hardest but also themost important. Yes, all the official duties of a pastor are important. Important is the privatecare of souls, the administration of the Holy Sacrament, confirmation instruction, evangelizing;because in all official work a pastor deals with the spiritual welfare of men. All the work of apastor has the final goal, that he was an accomplice to eternal salvation for men. We cantherefore say of any official duty that it was unimportant, that not much of it mattered, andthat the preacher must not pursue [his duties] with all diligence. The word of the prophet:"Cursed is he who does the work of the LORD deceitfully" (Jeremiah 48:10) is true of eachofficial duty of a pastor. - So if it is true that every official duty of a pastor is of greatimportance, then it must also be true that public preaching is the
most important
work of apastor. For this work above all things he is called; this work is his chief task. Without this workhe would not be called a clergyman, pastor, or preacher. Through this work he can also achievethe greatest benefit. Therefore the prophet Daniel says: "The
teachers
shall shine like thebrightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars foreverand ever" (Daniel 12:3). Especially through the public preaching of the Divine Word people areled into the church, kept in the church and thus brought into heaven. So says Article 24 of ourApology: "There is nothing that keeps people at church more than good preaching."
1
But nowthe sermon is the most important official duty of a pastor, the sermon is his chief task, so thepastor will now see that he does the best possible sermon with God's help. He shall make it hisbusiness with the highest diligence, that he also especially carry out his duties as pastor bypreaching. To achieve this goal, with God's help and assistance, he should put his wholestrength and energy into it. Without the right
preparation
for his sermon, he will not achievethis goal. Therefore, the question arises:
How can a preacher prepare for his sermon?
 If we now proceed to answer this question, I know very well that one cannot specify for everypreacher very precise, special rules as he starts to prepare for his sermon. Like the leaves of atree are different from each other, likewise as well the individual talent and character of thepreacher is different. David cannot walk around in Saul's armor. One cannot give special rules,one can only receive general instructions on how a preacher has to start, in order to be wellprepared to climb into the pulpit on Sunday. These general instructions I would like to bringunder the following five points:
1. The preacher is to call upon God for help, 2. meditatethoroughly, 3. have good order, 4. meticulously composed and finally 5. diligentlymemorized.
 
1. The preacher should, before he goes to work, call upon God fervently for His assistance.
 On the part of the preacher, entering the pulpit before the assembled congregation is indeed asolemn moment. As a messenger of the great God, the King of heaven and earth, the Lord of 
1
Ap. AC XXIV:50 (German).
 
life and death, the preacher stands before a crowd of people that the Son of God has boughtwith His precious blood. He will now show them how they may be partakers of salvation. Alleyes are expectantly directed on him. All are eagerly waiting to see what God wants to tellthem today through the servant of the Word, as His mouth, for teaching, exhortation, andconsolation on the way to the heavenly Jerusalem. In this solemn moment, the preacherinvoluntarily clasps his hands and lifts his eyes to God to implore from Him help and assistance.But how could a preacher now come with his prayer before God if he had not done his duty andobligation in the preparation of the sermon? So if he will do his duty and obligation, he musthave prayed to God for His blessing. For without God's blessing the preacher will not succeed.Everything is situated in God's blessing. Therefore, it is necessary for the preacher to shout"With the Lord begin your task", that is, the sermon. Before a preacher goes to the preparationof his sermon, he should ask God for His grace, that he proclaims only the pure and cleardoctrine of the Word of God, that he write and speak nothing that is unscriptural. Next heshould also ask that he bring in a clear, understandable manner to his hearers the counsel of God for their salvation. He might also ask Him that he has something to say. Our father Luthershows us how necessary prayer is for a preacher before the preparation of the sermon. "It ismost certain", he responds to George Spalatin concerning the question of how to study theScriptures in the best way, "that one cannot enter into the Scriptures by study or skill alone.Therefore, you should begin by praying that, if it pleases the Lord to accomplish somethingthrough you for his glory, and not for you own glory or that of any other man, he may grant youa true understanding of his words. For there is no master of the Scriptures other than Him whois their author, Hence it is written, 'They shall all be taught of God' (John 6:45). You mustcompletely despair of your own industry and ability, therefore, and rely solely on the influx of the Spirit. Believe me, for I have experience in this matter."
2
Luther writes similarly in 1519 onthe study of priests in the pamphlet
Ratio vivendi sacerdotum
, chapter 2: "When you approachthe Bible, first raise the eyes of the heart and the body toward heaven to Christ with a shortsigh in order to call upon His grace; this is to be done often during reading so that you speakand think: O give, Lord, that I understand this aright, but even more, that I do it too. But bewarein every way, that you do not wish to study the Holy, that you will only understand and know it;for I do not think that you are so naive to seek honor, profit, and fame. Search absolutelynothing other than the glory of God, so that you would be so disposed: Behold, dear Lord Jesus,if this study does not do You honor, then let me not understand a single syllable; but give me somuch as seems good to You, for Your glory in me, a sinner." Through prayer, the preacheracquires the right inner composure for his work. Fervent, constant prayer is the gateway to ablessed work of meditation. Yes, diligent prayer is half of studying. The preacher will be veryexperienced when he goes on to meditation.After the pastor has prayed fervently in the preparation of the sermon, he should
2. Meditate Thoroughly
 
2
To George Spalatin, January 18, 1518, "Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel", edited by Theodore Tappert, p. 112.
 
The second part of the preparation of the sermon is a
thorough meditation
. What do we meanby meditate? Homileticians use that word in a wider and narrower sense. In a
wider
sense theyunderstand by meditation the
inventio
and the
dispositio rerum
. In the
narrower
sense theymean the
inventio rerum
and in this sense we use the word here. By
inventio
, however, is alsothought the
dispositio
; but in my opinion it should follow the chief work of disposition first tomeditate or invention. We must now, however, again be clear what we mean by invention.Invention means "to go into", "to get familiar", "to unearth something" or "to launch". Themeaning of the word shows us what work we have to do to meditate, namely, "to bring out theinterpretation of the text, or to identify", "to get into the understanding of the text". Therhetoricians also use the word
inventio
. But there is a huge difference between an orator and apreacher. When a rhetorician will prepare a speech, he may descend into the depths of his ownreason or his own experience and get out of it his material for the present subject. When apreacher prepares a sermon, he is bound for his material to a fixed rule, namely to the rule andguide of the Word of God. His source, from which he should draw his material for the sermon,is the Bible, the Holy Scriptures. His sermon must form the basis of a text from the Bible. Sonow it has been told what action is required of a preacher in the Invention or in Meditation,namely this, that he rightly learn to understand his text, and if the chief content of his text issound, that he was looking for this chief content material, which he then can prepare a sermon.
Thus meditating is to understand the text and the collection of the material
.The starting point of our meditation is thus a text of Holy Scripture. For us Lutheran preachers,the text for our usual Sunday sermons are already prescribed in the pericopes, the Gospel andEpistle texts. It has been argued many times whether our Lutheran church is doing it wisely,that she retains the system of so-called pericopes. Despite disputing everything and thoughsome have even tried to introduce other pericopal series, nevertheless the old pericopal serieshas become so firmly ensconced among us that as long as there is a Lutheran church, there willalso probably be a pericopal system. And our church is doing well because she hold so tightly tothe prescribed pericopes. Luther's advice in the preface to the catechism has its validityregarding the pericopes. He says there: "...the pastor should most carefully avoid teaching theTen Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, the sacraments, etc., according to varioustexts and differing forms. Let him adopt one version, stay with it, and from one year to the nextkeep using it unchanged. Young and inexperienced persons must be taught a single fixed formor they will easily become confused, and the result will be that all previous effort and labor willbe lost. There should be no change, even though one may wish to improve the text." "The fewpericopes imprint themselves easily upon the memory, to turn again each year in its thrillingway and thus to be captive, dear, esteemed property to Christian people. Other and differenttexts keep coming, blurred this way one after another, and whether a preacher teaches manythings about it, everything is 'vain labor and work'." If, however, a preacher, once he haspreached often on the pericopes in a congregation, next treats the old church pericopes in theevening Divine Services as free texts, or also explain Biblical book consecutively in sermons inthe Chief Divine Service, we apply in this no compulsion on him. Only he should, I think, alwayspreach on the prescribed pericopes on the chief festivals. For it seems to me that our hearersare not satisfied when one preaches a free text on the chief festivals in the Chief Divine Service.

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