The real problem is not the preparation of a sermon but rather the preparation of the preacher. Only if the man is so full that he overflows will his words serve effectively to instruct, guide, comfort, and inspire the people entrusted to his pastoral care. Although this preparation is not limited to broad and careful scholarship, for the pastor as preacher (in contrast to the pastor as believer) this is essential.
As a preacher whose church stands within the liturgical tradition, I do not have to seek out a text. The church year, with its historic lessons from the Old Testament, the Epistles, and the Gospels, antecedes my search. There is freedom, to be sure, since I can choose between various annual pericopes (such as Old Church, Eisenach, and Thomasius) or, if it seems wise, choose a “free text” appropriate to the theme of that day. For example, I might well preach on Hebrews 4:2 in association with Matthew 13:3–9 or Romans 12:20, 21 with Matthew 18:23–35. The ecclesiastical year is, to me, not a straight jacket but a welcome aid.
A reading of the lessons poses the question, “What does God want me to say to my congregation this day?” To ensure a balanced diet from the pulpit I generally make an advance study of forthcoming pericopes and select my sermon themes for some three months at a time. Obviously, this schedule is subject to review and change in the light of events in the congregation and the world; but it is important that a preacher have an overview of the objectives of his sermons (the object of our preaching is far more important than the subject of the sermon) to avoid imbalance in the spiritual diet he sets before his people.
This sermon objective I now consider on the basis of my continuing study. This rests ...1
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