Preparing the Sermon
When my dad died in 2008, I decided to contact the four congregations he had served during his ministry. I asked the local pastors if they might announce his passing in case someone remembered. At least one did. A member in her 90s walked out of church and told her pastor, “I remember Pastor Tiefel’s first sermon.” The young pastor was eager to know what she remembered. “I don’t remember much of anything,” she said, “except the text. He preached on the draught of fishes.” I’ve retold that story many times over the years and invariably end the same way: That’s the highest compliment a pastor can receive.
“Preach the text” is the imperative the homiletics professor lays before student preachers—and then obligates them to do it in class sermons. The sermon, as we learned it and as we teach it, exposits a text, it explains and applies a passage of Scripture. On the basis of that exposition, the sermon proposes a truth. The sermon can take on a variety of forms—didactic, inductive, homily, narrative, or expositional1—but the best Lutheran preaching in all cases exposits a text and proposes a truth as it proclaims law and gospel.