Poll: Preaching Habits
Long before I was asked to join the editorial board of Gottesdienst, the journal had a strong influence on my preaching. There is truly no such thing as an original preacher - at least, one hopes there is not - and the marks of Eckardt, Petersen, Fabrizius, Koch, Stuckwisch, et al., are clearly to be seen in my preaching week in and week out. While the articles and commentary in the print journal are always insightful, I think that the section that contains sermons ancient and contemporary is actually the most important part of the contents each quarter. As our own Dr. Stuckwisch has commented before, if the preaching is right in a parish/church/synod, ceteris paribus, everything else will fall into place.
The topic of how exactly to preach comes up again and again at Gottesdienst gatherings. And in these discussions I witnessed one of the traits of the Gottesdienst Crowd that I most admired: among these excellent preachers, there was always exhibited a desire to get better. I can't imagine that I will ever be able to produce, week in and week out, the beautiful homilies that I read, for example, from Fr. Koch - I would be happy to do so and rest on my laurels! But these men, far from thinking they have it all figured out, will debate for hours on the homiletic task.
One of the topics perennially undertaken in this regard is whether to prepare a manuscript or not. In the corner of a carefully prepared manuscript chiefly stands Petersen - and in favor of no manuscript at all, we have Eckardt and Fabrizius.
For a long while, my practice has been to prepare a manuscript for Sunday morning, to preach off the cuff at shut-in calls and at Wednesday Low Mass, and to use an outline for Lent and Advent midweek services. For a while I was very much intrigued with Petersen's practice of arranging his manuscript in sense lines that helped to aid in delivery - but there is no doubt that, at least for me, a truly free delivery can only be attained with manuscript free preaching.
Something I've been trying lately, now that I have a handful of years through the historic lectionary, is to pull out a previous year's sermon and reedit it. Originally I did this a couple times because I was in a pinch after a busy week - but then I found that when I was preaching from one of these old, reedited sermons I suddenly felt much more free to range away from the manuscript. Perhaps this is a peculiar kink in my own brain - but it worked for me. I had the anchor of a manuscript, but felt unchained from it. Has it ever happened to you that right in the midst of preaching a sermon, you suddenly see a new insight that you should have put in the manuscript? When that would happen to me, I would just have to let it go to stay on script. Now that I am regularly practicing this preaching of reedited sermons, I find that not only can I follow that new insight while preaching, but that they come more often.
At any rate - if you don't subscribe to the print journal, the sermons are worth the price of admission. You will benefit greatly by being pushed and prodded to never grow satisfied with your own preaching - I know I have been.