11 October 2007

Further Thoughts on Preaching

This past Sunday's sermon was reviewed on KFUO's Issues, Etc. yesterday. You can listen here:


I found out about it at Bible Class last night! Pastor Wilken commented specifically about the ending - how it didn't put you back under the law - and I certainly hope that it didn't. What I'd suggest was the basic pattern of the sermon was: Law/Gospel/Mysical Union. A rather typical approach for me.

I think the mystical union is simply the key ingredient that is too often missing in homilies. It's how the life described BY the law comes to be LIVED by the Christian - that is, by faith's union with Jesus Christ. "That Christ be formed in you" was the Apostle's way of putting it. I'd argue that it gives you what folks concerned about third use are looking for, but does so without the impression of being left "under law." It also then is something different than the generic: "so come receive the Eucharist." Thoughts?


Philip Hoffman said...

I have to say, I would much rather the preacher preach the text. What I mean by that is this: if the text is all law, preach all law. If the test is all gospel, preach all gospel. If the text is all this or that, preach this or that (and there is plenty of variety in the lectionary to get all of these variations). Stop placing formulas upon it. It gets really formulaic and boring.

Just my 2 cents.

William Weedon said...

Ah, Philip, you get to the heart of something important. To preach the text as the Holy Spirit gave the text is to preach Christ. "These are they that bear witness of me." Not to find Christ - the Gospel! - in the text is not to have heard the text all the way through.

Philip Hoffman said...

Yes, but it depends for me what you mean by Gospel. Do you mean Gospel in the sense of the Lutheran Law/Gospel distinction or do you mean Gospel in the sense of the entirety of Scripture? To assume that you must preach the Gospel in the first sense (an explicit pronouncement that Christ died for your sins and hence you are forgiven), regardless of the text, doesn't necessarily mean that you are being a literalist to the text. It does mean that you are being a literalist to the Lutheran paradigm.

William Weedon said...

Now, Phillip, if you think that is a LUTHERAN paradigm you have just named the Holy Spirit a Lutheran! For He, speaking through the Blessed Evangelist St. Luke recording the words of St. Peter, said:

"To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name." ALL the prophets, says the Holy Spirit! Acts 10:43

Earlier, St. Peter had declared "What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled." Acts 3:18

Our Lord Himself declared when he opened the minds of His apostles to understand the Scriptures: "Thus is it written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations." Luke 24:46, 47

Thus Paul can rejoice that "in Him we have redemption." What is that redemption? "the forgiveness of sins." Col. 1:14

Anyway you slice it, the NT way of reading the OT and so reading itself is to find in it the Spirit's witness to the Cross and the victory over sin and death of the Lamb of God.

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

It is silly to say there is something wrong with ending a sermon with exhortation to do good works. Silly!

And, not Biblical.
Not Confessional.

It may not conform to what certain persons have come to regard as "best" or "proper" Lutheran preaching. And if by their standard this is "leaving people under the law" well...that is silly too.

Silliness abounds on this topic.

I'm still trying to pinpoint the origin of the non-Lutheran notion that unless a sermon ends with explicit Gospel it has failed properly to distinguish Law and Gospel.

If this is true, and I would like for certain persons at least to admit this much, then Martin Luther was a very, very, VERY bad Lutheran preacher.

How about it Todd?

I'll concede the point that every sermon should always conclude with explicit and specific Gospel if you grant that Luther was a bad Lutheran preacher.


: )

Philip Hoffman said...

I would simply say, allow the writer, through your words, to preach the full law or the full gospel (or a combination of both) based upon the lectionary readings. That's it. I am not attempting a hermeneutical principle here but instead a homiletical one.

Rev. Charles Lehmann said...

I do think, that at times at least, Luther was an absolutely horrible preacher.

So am I.

Anonymous said...


Yes, Luther was a bad preacher (except when he preached the Law in all its sterness and Gospel in all its sweetness, and allowed the Gospel to have the last word; then he was a very good preacher).

In any event, I'm not bound to HOW Luther preached.

So, Paul, will you now grant that every preacher should allow the clear Gospel to have the final word to sinners?

BTW, I don't consider this subject silly at all.


Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

OK, fair enough.

So, does this mean I need to stop ending my sermons with Gospel as an act of confession that Wilken is wrong and Luther was right?

I now have much to ponder.

Chaz, you are not allowed to say such things about Blessed Martin Luther until you have been preaching longer than six months. By my count that would mean...what? You have to wait until next February?

: )

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

I don't consider the subject silly, at all.

The position that a sermon that doesn't end with explicit Gospel has failed to distinguish properly between Law and Gospel, is silly.

And, you, are silly, silly looking actually, like me, but that's all beside the point.


Rev. Charles Lehmann said...

My first sermon as a pastor was June 24th.

So, January 25th is the day. ;-)

Anonymous said...


I agree that new preachers shouldn't critique Luther.

However, Chaz might get time off for good preaching (he's far ahead of most new preachers --AND consider what he learned from his vicarage mentor).

I would allow him to begin critiquing Luther in Advent, Christmas at the latest.


William Weedon said...

Oh, I suspect his vicarage mentor learned as much from him about preaching as Charles did from him. Charles IS a very good preacher. But I disagree with the criticism of Luther's preaching - it could end the way it did because of something else they had going on, and this is always neglected. The exhortation to communicants contained always clear and high octane Gospel. Think of it as the invariable post-script to the sermon. So you can't just take Luther's sermons and read them as though their context were the form of today's liturgy - a key ingredient that he banked on is not there anymore. FWIW.

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

Very well, I think we can make an exception for Chaz. Christmas would be ok.

He is a good preacher, but don't tell him I said that.