"If a Turtle Is on a Fencepost, Someone Put It There"
This quotation has been attributed to various people, so it must be true.
When fenceposts are garnished with turtles out to infinity, a lot has been going on. Some wonder if there will ever be a return to normal.
One example - out of many - is the lack of sermons today. In place of sermons are little talks that do not demand much of the minister or the congregation, and both parties seem pleased.
Writing is a function of thinking and directly related to speaking. Those who do not prepare a written text are going to fill the air with words and say little. One solution is for them to read or memorize something from another person. The trouble is, no matter how clever it is, the sermon does not belong to the individual - nor do the thoughts.
This situation has developed because congregations, denominations, and seminaries have so little trust in the sermon that it has become the least important part of worship - or in reality - the entertainment seeker service that replaced worship years ago.
Community of Joy in Phoenix was one of the largest congregations in America. This quasi-Lutheran congregation put all its emphasis on professional musicians, so every service was a showcase for one famous act or another. The congregation no longer exists, swallowed up by an Assemblies of God church.
When the Fuller-trained minister got rid of the professional music, the membershp faltered.
|Preaching office or fashion show?|
This pose explains it all.
Luther - The Predigtamt - The Preaching Office
Luther referred to the pastoral office as the preaching office - Predigtamt. All of the work of the Christian Church is done through the Word, and Luther placed a special emphasis on the proclamation of the Word as the most important part of this.
Luther's sermons are easy to obtain, from many collections, but it takes time to develop a capacity to understand and appreciate them. Most ministers are being fed a diet of baby food by the denominations, so Luther only appears to be difficult. In fact, Luther says more in a paragraph than most say in a year of preaching.
One approach might be to pick a paragraph and develop those thoughts for a sermon.
Warning - Luther always preached Justification by Faith, so the UOJ Snowflakes are going to melt down if they expose themselves to the heat and warmth of Luther's sermons.
The style of Luther's sermons is almost always an examination of each verse of the text. Sometimes he picks a theme, but usually he explains the text from a variety of perspectives, using his great grasp of the entire Bible to show how all the verses relate to each other.
True, his sermons are a definite problem for those who want to preach universal absolution without faith, because Luther always preaches about the importance of faith and how the Gospel creates this active and energetic force from God.
False teachers also stumble, fall, and hurt themselves when they see Luther identifying and describing false doctrine.
If Lutherans read a Luther sermon each week, they would have to ask themselves if they follow Luther or their denomination's favorites - Craig Groeschel, Leonard Sweet, Andy Stanley, and Rick Warren.
I had an epiphany when I studied the Social Gospel Movement (political activism through the church). I realized the Lutheran Church in America was recycling the Social Gospel of Walther Rauschenbusch, complete with the liberal German rationalism behind it.
At a retreat, Franklin D. Fry (son the first LCA president) used an example from the Social Gospel Movement. "Should we bind the wounds of the man beaten on the road to Jericho or make the road to Jerico safe?" I asked if he followed the Social Gospel Movement. "No!" So I asked, "Why did you use the classic example from the Social Gospel Movement?"
As Luther fans recognize already, the Good Samaritan is not a parable for do-gooder social activists. The Good Samaritan is Christ and His work through the Means of Grace. Fry's question was intended to make people feel good about salvation by works.
Church historians can explore further and see how the Rauschenbusch approach doomed his denomination and seminary, only to have it repeat itself in Church Growther Babtists like Warren and Stanley.
- Ministers should read a Luther sermon each week and post it to their blogs or Facebook pages.
- Ministers should also quote Luther often.
- Ministers should provide Luther's works for his members.
Notice I did not say "Lutheran" ministers. All ministers should. In the past every denomination recognized Luther as the premier Biblical expositor and preacher.