Preach the Word – May/June 2012

Volume 15, Number 5

Key Issue #10: Imitating Scriptural Variety in Our Preaching Styles

Paying attention not only to “what” Scripture says but also to “how” it says it – allowing the text itself to form both content and style.

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As a companion to the May/June 2012 issue of Preach the Word, we offer the following resources for further study by individuals, study groups, or circuits:

Study Aids

Once again Pastor Daron Lindemann and the author have partnered up to put together a set of application and discussion questions to accompany this issue of Preach the Word. We hope this added resource can help both individual pastors, as well as study groups or circuits, to gain even more from each edition of the newsletter.

Book Reviews

  • Book Review – Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible  by Thomas G. Long – God’s inspired Word has both content (what is said) and form (how it is said). Long encourages us not to overlook the various genres of Biblical literature as we prepare and preach our sermons. Instead he urges us to learn from the form of the biblical text how the timeless truths of Scripture can best be communicated to God’s people in contemporary settings. Purchase Preaching and Literary Forms of the Bible here.
  • Book Review – Preaching with Variety by Jeffrey D. Arthurs – This book provides several practical insights for preaching on various biblical genres. Arthurs argues that while the form of the biblical text is often a good starting point for sermonic form, it is impossible (and unadvised) to attempt to replicate every nuance of the original text for our hearers, rather with the Holy Spirit’s help we should seek to duplicate the text’s original impact. Purchase Preaching With Variety here.
  • Book Review – The Homiletical Plot by Eugene L. Lowry – In The Homiletical Plot Lowry proposes that sermonic form could (or should) be more like telling a story in that it gradually builds tension and eventually reaches a resolution, which impacts the faith and lives of listeners. To achieve this end the author suggests a five-step “plot” that Lutherans preachers may find refreshing because he focuses on the natural tension between the law and the gospel. Purchase The Homiletical Plot here.

Sermon Delivery that Reflects Literary Forms

This last key issue for the current series in Preach the Word urges us to consider how the variety of literary forms in Scripture can provide direction for us in how to structure our sermons. The two sermons posted below show evidence of allowing the literary form of the text to help shape the form of the sermon as preached.

Pastor Phil Arnold
St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, Stoddard, Wisconsin
Pentecost 19 (Year A) – 10/23/2011
Sermon Text: Matthew 21:28-32
“A Tale of Two Sons” (MP3)

Sermon – Matthew 21 – Arnold – Manuscript (Doc Format)

Pastor Arnold begins with a fitting illustration of contrasts that prepares for the contrast found in the parable between the two sons. He also sets the parable in its specific context (Tuesday of Holy Week and told to enemies) to help situate his hearers into the place of the first hearers. Pastor Arnold spends time in his sermon vividly retelling the parable as he expounds its meaning. As part of that retelling of the parable he also:

  • Supplies the socioeconomic implications of owning a vineyard that would have been known to the first hearers but would be unknown to most modern day hearers.
  • Artfully uses sanctified imagination as he helps us to ponder both sons’ reaction to their father’s request.
  • Helps us ponder the shock of the Pharisees.
  • Let’s the law cut on either side of the parable (failures of saying and doing).
  • Tactfully/Naturally brings in Jesus as the 3rd Son (the one telling the parable) who willingly did Father’s will in word and deed.

Pastor Jon Zabell
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Pentecost 20 (Year A) – 10/16/2011
Sermon Text: Isaiah 5:1-7
“The Song of the Vineyard” (MP3)

Sermon – Isaiah 5 – Zabell – Manuscript (Doc Format)

  • Pastor Zabell vividly describes the creation and preparation of the vineyard before the harvest had come to help modern day hearers understand what would have been a more everyday experience for the first hearers.
  • While use of Greek or Hebrew in the sermon itself is not routinely a wise choice, Pastor Zabell makes good use of Hebrew to show the beauty and play on words in the sound of the original poetry.
  • He also takes time in the sermon to explain the song and its consequences in its initial context, in the gospel, and in our time.
  • Notice how the preacher echoes the theme of “song” and musical allusions throughout this sermon so that the original song of the vineyard can be heard like a song by the present day hearers.

Imitating Scriptural Variety in Our Preaching Styles Proclaim Grace! Key Issue #10

The Holy Spirit inspired not only the content of God’s Word but also decided to dress it in a variety of literary forms that subtly shape and frame the divine revelation. This article explores how we easily fall into the habit of focusing on the content—what Scripture says—at the expense or neglect of form—how Scripture speaks. We would do well to ponder how the literary form of a text can influence how it is preached.

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May I Ask Another Question?

Since not a word—or literary device—dropped by accident from the pen of the Spirit, we have every reason to consider how the inspired author organized his message. But what questions should we ask as we linger long enough to learn not only what a text says but how the inspired author said it?

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Never Sacrifice Substance for Style

Recognizing that there is no sermonic form that must rule as king in Lutheran pulpits doesn’t mean we’ve arrived at the homiletical period of the judges when each pastor does as he sees fit in (or out of) his pulpit. Living in a sound bite age where style often trumps substance, we must be especially vigilant that we don’t abandon as mere sermonic style what is really unchanging homiletical substance.

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Appreciating the Beauty of Your Text’s Genre

In the last three decades there’s been an explosion of writing on Scripture’s literary beauty. Yes, much comes from those whose view of Scripture is far too low. But even many liberal scholars have grown tired of the historical-critical method savaging Scripture to get “behind the text.” Many are shifting to standing “in front of the text” to admire Scripture’s beauty. While we wish they’d abandon the dangerous presuppositions of the historical critical method, much of what they’ve written is extremely useful. “Whether from false motives or true,” their insights assist gospel proclamation by highlighting the literary variety of the Spirit’s handiwork.

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Rhetorical Wisdom from Our Fathers

From the early centuries of the Christian Church down to the present time the question has been debated whether oratorical art is applicable to the proclaiming of the Gospel. While it must be admitted that Jesus sent his disciples, not with the instruction to be his orators, but his witnesses, yet for this reason rhetorical embellishments need not necessarily be barred from the presentation of the Gospel truths.

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