“ . . . Six things are necessary to the preacher:
1. He must have a fine accent.
2. He must be learned.
3. He must be eloquent.
4. He must be a handsome person, whom the girls and young women will like.
5. He must take no money, but have money to give.
6. He must tell people what they like to hear”
(M. Luther, Minister’s Prayerbook, 422).
But what lies before the ellipsis? “As the world would have him, six things are necessary to the preacher” (emphasis added).
What the world expects and what God has given to preachers to preach are at odds. The art of preaching involves, in part, a fundamental understanding of the distinction between the world governed by its prince, the devil, and the church, whose head is Christ. Yet there is tension. Why? Because preachers live in the world. That is how God set up the preaching office. The office is filled with men called by God; we are of flesh and blood, preaching to those of flesh and blood. Preaching is not some gnostic event, but one very much tied to the material. And that connection is what is explored in the various essays presented in this issue of LOGIA.
Preaching understood as the art of applying law and gospel in the setting of a congregation’s worship is in large part peculiar to the preacher. In case you haven’t noticed, pastors tend to be a bit individualistic. Of course, every confessional Lutheran seminary teaches homiletics, with the goal of giving the church men trained in the art of preaching law and gospel, and there cannot help but be a certain amount of uniformity to such training. However, in the years and decades that follow seminary training, pastors develop their own, idiosyncratic, ways of sermon preparation, speaking and standing in the pulpit, gestures, and so forth. It is beneficial both for pastors and hearers that those who preach continue to study this art, to examine both content and delivery of the sermon. Pastors, while to some extent often their own harshest critics, still need their brothers in the ministry to provide more objectivity to such critiques.
One example of such encouragement to study is found in an essay from seven decades ago, indicating that concern for preaching is certainly nothing new:
To preach the law and the gospel means more than to speak of them, describe them, point to them. Then any half-hearted mentioning of law and gospel would be preaching the same. It is not, and we say that to the great discomfiture of many, even ourselves. It means matheeteúein–didáskein–keerúttein–euaggelízein [discipling–teaching–preaching–evangelizing]. It means marturéin–parakaléin [witnessing–entreating] and the rest, words and expressions by which God describes and so fills the office of gospel preaching full of meaning and responsibility that the preacher is tempted to cry: “woe is me, for I cannot.” We do not blame a Moses and other prophets for hesitating when called to this serious work; and yet, when we consider the contrast between this and the preaching of the law, who would not greatly desire and long for it?
To preach the gospel, then, is more than talking about it. It is more than an objective statement of the doctrines involved, no matter how carefully exact, orthodox and biblical such statements may be. The gospel is that green pasture of which the Bible speaks. It is that banquet table of Christ, that living water with which Christ identifies himself—in other words, to preach the gospel is to preach Christ. (Sigurd Ylvisaker, 1884–1959, president of Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, MN, paper was read at the Northwest Pastoral Conference of the Norwegian Synod [ELS] 4–5 April 1945 in Mankato, Minnesota, and printed in the Clergy Bulletin 4, no. 8 [April 16, 1945]: 2)
So, as in other disciplines of the Christian faith, so also in preaching, we keep learning. Luther’s preface to the Large Catechism is worthy of our attention as much in sermon preparation as elsewhere:
Let them continue to read and teach, to learn and medi- tate and ponder, let them never stop until they have proved by experience that they have taught the devil to death and have become wiser than God himself and all his saints. (LC Preface; Tappert, 19)
Thomas L. Rank Scarville, Iowa