As a new post, that one led for the last seven days, so I copied it for the second half of this post. Some comments rolled in about it, so I will add a few more thoughts.
I have no idea how most pastors prepare and give their sermons, but I have some opinions about the topic.
Walther is quoted as saying, "The closer to Luther, the better the theologian," probably the most scathing self-indictment ever penned by an American Lutheran idol. Walther perfectly fit the model described by Luther in his Galatians commentary, quoted above - hindering the Gospel by "building and correcting" rather than actively persecuting and destroying. Walther had to be the whole show, the corpse at every funeral and the bride at every wedding, as they said about Teddy Roosevelt - the seminary president, the synod president, the editor in chief of everything. He had to produce his own dogmatics text so the shepherds-to-be would be guided by The Great Walther, BA.
Nevertheless, the saying is true - "The closer to Luther, the better the theologian." The worst way to learn Luther is through Luther studies, an impressive industry by itself. Exactly when did Luther discover the Gospel? and so forth. People can declaim endlessly "about Luther" without ever agreeing with him.
I recall Jay Webber as a new graduate of Concordia Ft. Wayne engaging on a diatribe of what was wrong with Luther. I asked, "Have you read Luther?" His answer was - "No." And nothing is different decades later in his botch of a paper at the Emmaus Conference. Proving they never read Luther either, the audience did not deprive him of food, bait him with dogs, and pelt him with manure. Nor would they know where that reference came from. (Hint - Luther's Large but Unread Catechism.)
One draws closer to Luther by reading his sermons: it is as simple as that. Luther thought correctly that the sermon was the whole matter in Christianity. The Christian Church was built upon the sermon, not programs, and thrived on doctrinal teaching and preaching. I favor the Lenker set because I have owned it forever, quoted from it, read and reread the sermons. I have not learned all of it yet and do not expect to live long enough to appreciate all of its wealth. I have volumes in the car for when I need something to read and usually read all or part of the sermon designated for the next Sunday.
Here is the Lenker set combined with the House Sermons.
Preach Without Any Notes?
Someone asked this. I came to this conclusion by teaching thousands of adults, listening to hundreds of presentations, and trying different approaches. My adult students, undergraduate and graduate, have agreed about these basic principles.
- If we have something to read in front of us, we will read it. The moment we read, we start to lose eye contact with our audience and they stop listening.
- Speaking to an audience must be interactive, so the speaker anticipates what the audience is thinking and responds to that, like a tennis player preparing for the return.. Read sermons are more like golf, where the topic is struck until the game is over. Tennis requires another person. Golf does not.
- Speaking without notes comes about through preparation. The sermon text is all we need as a reminder, an outline. If we know that text well, preaching about it is relatively easy.
- I threw my classes into a panic by telling them not to use any notes at all, including speaker's notes on the Power Point. I also forbade them the luxury of reading the PP slide to their suffering audience.
- In two rare cases I had the same group of students for two classes in a row. They all proved that with preparation, they could speak without any notes - if they prepared with a lot of research. (Some read from Internet essays, with their "notes" showing the URL of the material they plagiarized. They earned zeros and screeched mightily about the injustice of it all.)
Here I must confess to the origin of my method - CFW Walther. He advocated writing out the sermon in advance - which is essential for mental preparation, then setting the manuscript aside for the sermon.
I believe we owe our congregations a copy of the sermon, posted on the Net. When John Parlow did this, WELS pastors noticed "his" sermons were almost verbatim from various Babtist sources. Soon the sermons were no longer posted on the congregation's websty. Parlow writes - "The Word works, so dream big," but has he even tried the Word of God? He needs to study under gay activist Andy Stanley to learn how to do his job.
American Lutherdom has declined so rapidly because the leaders have been improving upon Luther while remaining ignorant of Luther's teaching. They are in love with Fuller Seminary methods or Roman Catholic high church entertainment. In fact, they love every denomination except their own.
I want to tell you that you were the one who turned me on to the Lenker 8 volume set of Luther's Sermons. I ordered them used on Amazon years ago after reading Ichabod for some time. I try to read a Luther sermon for my own sermon preparation each week. I never finish any of his sermons though because they are so good that I find myself drifting into all sorts of thoughts, repentance for my own sins, and most of all, renewed confidence in God's mercy in Christ.
Luther's sermons should be required reading for all "Lutheran" clergy. I have often said that ever since I graduated seminary I've spend my time unlearning that teaching and learning how to be Lutheran instead. The fact that Luther's sermons are not required reading, or even suggested, shows a lot about how far Lutheranism in America has come. So thanks for pointing me to Luther's sermons.
PS - You can even mention that the anonymous comment came from a Concordia Seminary - St. Louis grad, whose first reading assignment in seminary was Rick Warren's "Purpose-Driven Life." (which is 100% true).