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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

A Threefold Christological Definition of Preaching

The Bugenhagen Conference is in Racine, Wisconsin, in just two weeks, with three keynote speakers and 40 workshops. In preparation for one of my workshops I ran across something I had written in 2012 that addresses much of the substance of that workshop (Preaching without a Net). Whether you're going or not (and if you're a pastor, you should; there is no registration fee, and it is shaping up to be filled with stellar material), here's that six-year-old paper for your consumption.

Burnell F Eckardt Jr.


Homiletics courses at confessional Lutheran seminaries tend, rightly, to stress the importance of the right content in sermons.  The proper distinction of law and Gospel, the importance of being evangelical, that is, ensuring that the Gospel prevails, that Christ and his mercy must be at the heart of every Christian sermon, that sermons be sacramental, that they be textual and sound—these things are all of paramount importance, and it is always encouraging to see seminaries emphasizing them as of first importance.

Yet good sermons must not merely be marked by the criteria of soundness of doctrine, but in terms of structure and style.  For what good is a sermon that fulfills all the obligations of evangelical content but which, say, puts all the hearers to sleep?   Or perhaps worse, how helpful is a sermon whose style belies its substance?  If we can agree that matters of liturgical style are not insignificant (if you disagree, you really need to subscribe to Gottesdienst), then we should also be able to agree that a theology of preaching is, in the same way as a theology of liturgical worship, worthy of careful attention, toward an encouragement of better preaching.

There are at least three things about what essentially comprises preaching that ought to be understood by pastors whose task it is to do it.  The first is a consideration of preaching as fulfillment.  This is why preaching is mandated by Christ, who came in the fullness of time.  Preaching, seen from this standpoint, is essentially an activity of the Incarnate God, a Christological activity, carried out in our time by His appointed preachers. This is most fundamental.  Second is a recognition that since preaching is necessarily words—communication—therefore the preacher should attempt to employ in his sermons the words and phrases he finds in Sacred Scripture.  Since the preacher uses words, and what he means to preach is the word of God, it is fitting for him to seek to make the very words he uses for the construction of his own sentences words and patterns he finds in Scripture.  Third, since preaching is an activity that connects the preacher to the hearers, it is most helpful for the preacher to seek to make this connection, as much as he is able, at the point of hearing, rather than partly at some point prior, when “writing a sermon.”  Put simply, the essence of sermons is not something written down, but something preached.

The Substance of Preaching: Fulfillment

Preaching is a serious business, an activity commanded by Christ.  Preachers are no less enjoined to take to heart the Third Commandment than hearers.  The command to remember the Sabbath means, as the catechism says, that we should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.  This means that preaching must be understood not only by the hearers, but by the preachers themselves, as the divinely instituted proclamation of God’s word.

But how exactly is preaching the word of God?  There is a subtle but important difference between calling a sermon a kind of commentary on the word of God and calling a sermon itself the word of God.  But the latter is essentially what Martin Luther is declaring it to be in the explanation to the third commandment; in fact he goes so far as to give preaching the position of preference in his explanation: “preaching and His word.”  This is consistent with his view that the Gospel’s primary mode of delivery is aural.  The church, he says, is the “mouth-house” of God (Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent, Sermons of Martin Luther, ed., John Lenker [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988], 1: 44). Significantly, this view of preaching highlights the fact that it is more than commentary.

What makes preaching divine is not only the dominical command to preach—that Jesus told His apostles to do it—but the evidence of its being a particularly New Testament phenomenon inaugurated by Jesus.  This is borne out by several references. First, the Sermon on the Mount is presented as foundational for preaching in St. Matthew’s Gospel.  The evangelist tells us that Jesus “opened His mouth and taught them” (St. Matthew 5:2), which, if it is more than merely stating the obvious, must be an indication of the beginning of preaching as a new kind of activity. The hearers are described, at the conclusion, as being “astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (St. Matthew 7:28f).  Jesus’ own preaching must have been substantially in sharp contrast to what the people were accustomed to hearing. 

Perhaps it could be argued that the prophets of old were preaching as well, but the evidence in the Gospels here indicates a qualitative difference between their prophecy and what happened in Jesus’ preaching.  As Luther put it, “Christ . . . gave the command to preach and extend the Gospel, which lay hidden in the Scriptures,” ibid., 31). Preaching in any sense of the term was not prominent in Old Testament times. A comparison of the Old Testament worship practices to those in the New Testament can quickly yield this major difference. Whereas the Old Testament contains prophets who from time to time warned people and called them to repentance, the New Testament contains evidence of preachers whose perpetual task was to make known the revelation of God in Christ. This is not by accident, for according to St. Paul, the Gospel “in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:5).

Now, in contrast to the message of the prophets, the opening of Jesus’ mouth coincided with the opening of the completed Scriptures—the revelation of their full meaning—at His long-awaited arrival. The Church’s first preacher, now in a fundamentally new sense, was Jesus Himself. More than merely another rabbi or prophet, He by preaching inaugurated the Preaching Office.  With the authoritative opening of Jesus’ mouth the sermon emerged to replace the common synagogue practice of providing rabbinic commentary on the Scriptures.  

The data concerning the worship of the synagogue in Jesus’ day are sketchy, but some of it can be gleaned from the Gospels themselves. The fourth chapter of St. Luke in particular gives us a special case in which Jesus was not only present, but a central liturgical participant. There we are told that immediately after His temptation He “taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all” (St. Luke 4:15). Jesus is there said to have “taught” in the synagogues, rather than that He “preached” there. The term used for teaching (didasko, didache) is of a distinctly different nature than the term normally used for preaching (kerysso, kerygma). Rabbinic teaching, also called midrash, was a practice that was likely of the same nature as rabbinic commentary on the Bible. The rabbis would comment on the Bible verse by verse, in much the same way as a modern Bible commentary. These comments were sometimes found in the margins of the Bible scrolls themselves. Jesus, who was certainly recognized as a rabbi, and widely known as one, would have been expected to teach in the synagogues to which He went. We are told of “his custom” to go into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stand up to read. But on this occasion, that is, on having returned from the wilderness and “in the power of the Spirit” (4:14) something different happened: “There was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me . . .” and continued the reading. Then, “he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him” (16-20).  Here the expectation would be for the coming midrash, the rabbinic explanation of the Scripture just read.  But instead, Jesus said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (21). So it was that in this case, “all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” (22). Thus the Evangelist St. Luke gives evidence here of the same shocking awareness of which St. Matthew had spoken at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount.  This, for St. Luke as well, was essentially the beginning of preaching.

Moreover, in telling us that Jesus “began” to say this to them (4:21), the Evangelist is further indicating not merely that the entire sermon was what amazed them, but that this new preaching was only beginning, and would continue.  In fact, a comparison to Acts 1:1 shows that the apostolic activity was to be understood as a continuation of this beginning, in that it also speaks of “all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.” The gracious words referenced in St. Luke 4:22 were to continue in all apostolic preaching.  Fulfillment was the new theme, inaugurated by Jesus’ appearance to teach in the synagogue. Here the midrash was in effect replaced by the sermon.

What is striking is that the passage Jesus read, from Isaiah, contains this: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives” (18). Here, not only is the word for preaching introduced, but “gospel” (evangel). So Jesus takes up the mantle of teacher, but begins to preach, and as He does so He announces that the day of fulfillment has come. His announcement that He is now going to begin preaching the Gospel is meant to indicate that the day of fulfillment has arrived.

Christian preaching is best understood as a continuation of this.  What began with Jesus’ own proclamation of himself as the fulfillment of all the Scriptures is perpetuated by His own mandate, with the added feature of His completion of the work He came to do.  His order to His apostles includes this preaching: “Thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (St.  Luke 24:46-47).  This is why the forgiveness of sins takes precedence in Christian preaching.  The culmination of all that Christ did is the forgiveness of sins, as is also made clear in the Words of Institution (“for the remission of sins,” St. Matthew 26:28).

So it is that in Acts 2 (14-36), Peter announces that what is occurring on Pentecost fulfills the prophecy of Joel, and that the resurrection fulfills the words of David. What Peter in essence does there is to take up the preaching mantle that Jesus had cast upon him. So too we find soon afterwards that Philip also “opened his mouth” (as Jesus was said to have done) and preached Jesus (Acts 8:35), and again that Peter “opened his mouth” (10:34) in preaching, further emphasizing the connection to Jesus’ own activity. Likewise Paul in Thessalonica “reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ” (17:2-3).

Since it is clear that preaching was not merely to be an activity present in the apostles themselves—witness Philip and others, and the mandate to preach “among all nations”—preachers also in our day must see themselves as inhabiting and carrying out the duties of the same office.  Essential to preaching that is properly Christological is a theology of preaching that incorporates this kind of Biblical linkage, first, between the preaching of Jesus and the preaching of the apostles, and finally, to the preachers of our day.  What began with Jesus Himself continues in all proper preaching, and preachers, of the Gospel.

The Words of Preaching: the Language of Faith

Consistent with this understanding of linkage, the early church’s preachers seem to have followed a rather seamless pattern of continuing the use of the apostolic designs of sermons.  It is not only a conceptual linkage that must be understood as existing, but a stylistic linkage.  The concepts, words, and phrases that are used come from the same reservoir.

The epistles of St. Paul and St. Peter incorporate the words and word patterns of the Scriptures in their apostolic communications. There were no quotation marks, and verbatim references were unnecessary. The apostles virtually breathed the Scriptures, making the Biblical message fresh to the hearers by transforming it into a message tailored to their own generation. For instance, St. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, refers to Isaiah 49:8, citing the Septuagint version, “I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee,” and goes on immediately to declare, “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). The discourse does not even contain a reference to the specific prophet cited, much less chapter and verse.  For the Apostle it is sufficient to lead into the citation with the words “For he saith,” where “he” simply refers to God.

In many respects, the New Testament epistles are of the same genre as the sermon. They are commentaries on the life of Christ, as are sermons; they are explications of the (Old Testament) Scriptures, as are sermons; and they proclaim the Gospel, as do sermons. This is the meaning of St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “By revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:3-5). Since this revelation has occurred, therefore, St. Paul continues, “I was made a minister . . . that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (7-8).  Since this is so, a stylistic lesson can be taken from the epistles.

There is of course a qualitative difference between the Apostolic epistles and the sermon. An epistle is the Word of God by virtue of its apostolicity as well as by its content. A sermon, on the other hand, is rightly called the Word of God if its content is consistent with the written revelation of God. The sermon is called the Word of God in a derived sense, whereas an epistle is the Word in a primary sense. Yet even in spite of this difference, there is an essential unity with the apostolic mind-set that the preacher should seek. To be sure, no preacher can claim apostolicity for himself, yet he is to see that his sermon preparation follows the same pattern of preparation we can ascertain the apostles followed in the writing of their epistles.

The apostles did not gain their knowledge of the Gospel from direct or immediate revelation any more than the preacher does today. The revelation that they gained was taught them by Christ Himself, who actually spoke to them when He was with them. Even St. Paul’s reference in Ephesians (quoted above) to “revelation,” by which was made known unto him the mystery, ought not be understood as a direct or unspoken revelation; for we have record of this revelation: it occurred on the road to Damascus, and was witnessed by others who were present with Paul. The fact that Paul was already quite familiar with the Scriptures played a key role in the knowledge he gained by that vision, that Jesus is the Christ. Now, having gained the Key to the Scriptures, he was newly able to interpret them according to their fulfillment in and by Christ. What was evidently undertaken in the crafting of an apostolic epistle was a passing on of understanding that in Jesus all the Scriptures find their fulfillment, as Jesus Himself taught these men. When He then made them apostles, by His own authority He gave them preeminent authority as guardians of the Word of revelation, as He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (St. Matthew 28:18-19). 

Similarly, what ought to happen in the crafting of a sermon is the continued passing on of this understanding and approach, following the pattern set by the apostles, as well as a necessary verification that the sermon is fully in accord with the apostolic record. In this way we call the sermon the preached word of God. It is fitting that the sermon be given the reply of “Amen,” an assertion of the hearers that they recognize the sermon for what it is.

Patristic sermons routinely sought to incorporate the fulfillment of the Scriptures into their own words.  This was likely more instinctive than intentional on their part, inasmuch as their profusely Biblical prayers and meditations would have informed their own speech. But this manner of speaking was not new in them; they mimicked the approach of the apostles themselves.

What the preacher ought to seek to do, in accordance with this understanding, is the same.  His preaching ought to have the same approach, or style, as the apostles had in their epistles.  He ought to make the language of faith his own language.  Not only the substantive content, that is, but the very terms, phrases, and rhetorical devices he finds in Scripture should become part of his language.  As the apostles and the fathers were wont to weave Biblical quotations seamlessly into the fabric of their own communications, so ought the preacher to seek to fill his sermons with Biblical quotations and phrases.  It is as unnecessary for him to tell his hearers what he is quoting as it was for the apostles.  He may wish to resort to phrases like, “as it is written,” or, “so it is written by the prophets,” or he may wish simply to state some truth with the use of prophetic or apostolic words embedded within his own sentences, as though the words were original to him.  Even occasional extended quotations, if they declare exactly what he means to say, can be employed this way.  What in a secular speech or document might be considered plagiarism is in this context and setting unquestionably the preaching of the word of God.

Even the rhetorical devices used by Jesus, or by apostles and prophets, should be studied for rhetorical employment by the preacher.  For example, Jesus’ own use of repetition for emphasis, as in the familiar “verily, verily I say unto you,” suggests that the preacher might similarly use repetition of a word he wants to emphasize.  So too, the preacher might be encouraged to use rhetorical questions, that is, questions which do not need to be answered, since they are part of the Bible’s rhetoric, as when St. Paul does in I Corinthians 15:5, saying, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”  Here, we note in passing, is another instance of the apostle seamlessly employing prophetic language, as he uses “O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction” from Hosea 13:14 in the fabric of his own speech.

But such devices really cannot be studied well, apart from the necessity that the preacher gain a deep familiarity with the Scriptures.  So it is that the matter of first importance for anyone who desires to learn to preach is that, simply put, he learn to know the Bible well, and thus to know well how the Bible presents Christ.  This needs to be stressed more than anything else a preacher might consider.  To be able to preach, one must consider what the proclamation is, and how it is delivered in Sacred Scripture.

The Delivery of Preaching: Aural, Not Written

As one considers these things, there is another matter that becomes rather hard to miss, namely the fact that there is no evidence that Biblical preachers used manuscripts or notes.  In fact there is a fair amount of evidence that they did not.  The account of Jesus in the synagogue (St. Luke 4) goes to great lengths to tell us what Jesus did read aloud, namely the book of the prophet Isaiah, but it gives no indication that he was reading anything when he said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (21).

So too, Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, a direct response to the slanderous charge that that Apostles were drunk (Acts 2:13), could hardly have come from a prepared manuscript.  Yet he goes on at length (14-36) to explain the Pentecost event as a fulfillment of Scripture.  Paul’s sermon in Thessalonica (17:22-31) seems also to have arisen spontaneously.  First, “his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry” (16), then he “disputed . . . in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him” (17), and finally he replied directly and immediately to their question of his “new doctrine” (19).

What is absent from the references to Jesus’ own preaching and to the preaching of the apostles, is any intermediary step between the mind and the mouth.  Certainly in Jesus’ case, no written sermon preparation would be necessary, since he himself is, to use the Johannine term, the Word.  But the apostles are also seen as preaching extemporaneously.

It should come as no surprise, in view of this evidence, that for centuries, preachers generally did not use manuscripts or written notes when they preached.

It is fairly well known today that the extant sermons of St. Augustine were not written by the bishop himself, but by those who heard them and took down what they heard.  This awareness is due to the ground ploughed nearly a century ago by Augustine scholar Roy S. Deferrari. In a 1922 article, Deferrari effectively disproved the prevailing opinion that Augustine had been in the habit of writing his manuscripts first and then preaching the memorized text.  The former opinion had been the result, it turns out, of a faulty reading of a passage in Augustine’s Retractiones (Roy Deferrari, “St. Augustine’s Method of Composing and Delivering Sermons,” The American Journal of Philology 43 [1922]: 97-123 and 193-219, 99).  Deferrari’s work effectively put to rest, convincingly for the world of Augustine scholarship, the unsupportable opinion that Augustine ever wrote any of his own sermons down.   It was, rather, only through the work of scribes that his sermons have come to us. The evidence of this is not only external but internal, as Deferrari has also shown. “Passages strike us on all sides which show the enthusiasm and inspiration of the preacher speaking extemporaneously and without written assistance. . . .  Examples of high flight of rhetoric meet us on all sides” (ibid., 193f).

Not only, it turns out, was the preparation of a preaching manuscript untrue of Augustine, but of virtually all the great Patristic preachers.  The common practice was, rather, for the writing to come from someone else’s hand, during the delivery of the sermon.  Public scribes, called notarii, would take down verbatim every word they heard, using special skills for a system of shorthand not unlike that used by courtroom stenographers of our day (see Harmless, Augustine and the Catechumenate, 165), and then delivering their manuscripts back into the hands of the preachers, who might subsequently offer corrections as they saw fit.  A different class of these scribes, the librarii, or amanuenses, was equipped to transcribe the shorthand records into longhand (Deferrari, 106f).

This use of notarii was employed by Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzus, Chrysostom, and others, and there is manifold evidence that the great preachers the patristic era preached without any written assistance of any kind (ibid.).  Gregory Nazianzus, for example, refers to “pencils seen and unseen,” a reference to the notarii.  Fourth century Greek historian Socrates of Constantinople, to cite another, had this to say about Chrysostom’s sermons: “How eloquent, and persuasive his sermons were both those which were published by himself and such as were noted down by shorthand writers as he delivered them, why should we stay to declare?” (Socrates 6:4, Patrilogia Graece 67:672, quoted in Deferrari, 108). A notable exception is Atticus, the bishop of Constantinople, who is said to have written out his sermons and memorized them before their delivery.  This exception seems to prove the rule, however, for “[t]he great minds of the patristic floruit (fourth and fifth centuries) . . . usually preached extempore, or if not extempore in the strictest sense, after some meditation on the subject” (Deferrari, 104).  If ever these preachers did write some of their sermons down, it was occasioned by sickness, exile, or some circumstance that prevented them from preaching themselves; their sermons were then meant to be read in their absence (ibid., 101).

As for the reasons for this extemporaneous preaching, Augustine evidently believed that written or memorized preparations were hindrances to the preacher’s ability to keep rapport with the hearers.  “If . . . the hearers require to be roused rather than instructed, in order that they may be diligent to do what they already know, and to bring their feelings into harmony with the truths they admit, greater vigor is needed.  Here, entreaties and reproaches and upbraidings, and all other means of rousing the emotions, are necessary” (Patrologia Latine 4:3,4, quoted in Deferrari, 111).

St. Gregory the Great similarly declares that “the voice of one talking informally stirs the heart more than the words of a reader and, as it were, with an anxious hand, prods them to attention” (Homily 21, quoted in Deferrari, 102f).

Some of the same kinds of evidence of extemporaneous preaching can be gleaned from a reading of Luther’s sermons as well.  On the one hand, his Postils are well known, and the fact that he takes credit for their authorship.  On the other hand, it is also understood that these were written primarily for the benefit of other preachers who were as yet untrained to give evangelical sermons (Luther’s dedicatory words in the first Postil  consider it “the interpretation of the Epistles and Gospels . . . for the benefit of the ministers and their subjects” (Lenker, 9).

Since preaching is an activity that connects the preacher to the hearers, it is most helpful for the preacher to seek to make this connection altogether at the point of hearing, rather than partly prior, when “writing a sermon.”  In a word, sermons are best understood not as written documents, but as words preached aloud.

On the other hand, while St. Augustine is known to have eschewed manuscripts, notes, and the memorization of previously written texts, it is also clear that he did prepare his sermons.  His method of preparation was simply different than what is common in our day.  He prepared by prayer and study.  He pondered.  Harmless notes that he worked on some texts “long and hard in his study” (Harmless, 165, n37). The process begun in the private study is then presented and even continued in the pulpit.   

When preaching is undertaken in this way, the preacher’s mind is continuing the process he began when first pondering the appointed pericope.  He is teaching from the pulpit; his mental activity is much the same as when catechizing; the difference is largely that his language should be more formally crafted by employment of the language of faith.  A preacher who has a manuscript in front of him in the pulpit, or who has memorized his words previously, is engaged in a different kind of mental process.  He is essentially reading a script or delivering a written script.  The preacher, by contrast, who has mastered the extemporaneous method is bringing his hearers into the process in which he is at the very moment of preaching continuing to engage.  This goes a long way toward accounting for the “rousing” “or “prodding” of the hearers to which Augustine and Gregory refer.

The advent of the use of a preaching manuscript probably coincides with the invention of the typewriter.  While a manuscript can certainly be a helpful tool, one does wonder, in view of the preponderance of evidence of extemporaneous preaching by the great preachers of yore, whether it is a crutch too easily employed by men who might be better off walking on their own.

A Caution

The evidence presented here that Biblical and patristic preaching was extemporaneous is not intended to convince every preacher to cast aside at once his preference to write before speaking, or for him to expect that if he steps into the pulpit tomorrow without a manuscript, the Spirit will suddenly somehow take care of the rest.  Jesus’ promise, “it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak” (St. Matthew 10:19) was given to His immediate apostles, and in a different context, after all.  A manuscript, or even a written outline, ought to be seen as a crutch; but in many cases, a crutch is needed, and in any case is certainly preferable to a bad sermon.

Even Augustine makes allowances for the preacher whose skills are weak that he may “deliver to the people what has been written by a more eloquent man than himself” (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, 4:62 [NPNF I: Vol. 2:596], referenced in Deferrari 103).

An unintended and most unfortunate result of a favorable reading of this manuscript, therefore, would be a headstrong rush by an ill-equipped preacher into the realm of the extemporaneous, only to find himself tongue-tied, or babbling with speech peppered with unnecessary and annoying interjections.  Augustine, it is to be remembered, was trained in rhetoric.  Before a preacher attempts extemporaneous preaching, he must learn to limit the kinds of interjections that are meant to do nothing but fill pregnant pauses (“um,” “ah,” “you know,” etc.), and even to be unafraid of those pauses and use them to good effect. 

Far more importantly, he must become very familiar with Scripture.  He would to well to consider, as part of his preparation, the committing of the Psalter to memory, as was expected of early bishops.  As the memory becomes filled with these Psalms, the thought patterns of the preacher become altered, and he begins to find his own speech more easily and naturally found to be employing the phrases he has in the arsenal of his memory.  This may take him years, but they will certainly be better spent years than time otherwise spent in countless hours coming up with new introductions, transitions, vignettes for his sermons.  Sermon preparation must be seen as a discipline not divorced from the daily prayers of the preacher.

Augustine agrees: “Now it is especially necessary for the man who is bound to speak wisely, even though he cannot speak eloquently, to retain in memory the words of Scripture. For the more he discerns the poverty of his own speech, the more he ought to draw on the riches of Scripture, so that what he says in his own words he may prove by the words of Scripture” (On Christian Doctrine, 4, 5, in NPNF First Series Vol. 2:576).

What is intended here is that preachers consider carefully a manner of producing better sermons.  This threefold definition of preaching is presented in order of importance.  Of first importance is that preachers understand what it means to preach.  Second comes an awareness that the preaching of the word of God can be crafted in no better way than by employing well-learned words of God.  Then finally, a consideration of preaching as an aural activity might well be considered.

Burnell Eckardt