Most Important

How about starting the week with a quote from Pasquarello’s We Speak Because We Have First Been Spoken (p4):

“For this reason, the most important element of sermon preparation is the theological, spiritual and moral formation of the preacher through the Spirit’s empowerments of faith, hope, and love, which are completed by the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, godliness, and fear of the Lord (Isa.11). Learning the ‘grammar’ of the preaching life requires cultivating habits of the mind, heart, and body – including speaking truthfully – that are intrinsic to the church’s vocation of knowing and worshiping the triune God. If this is true, preaching excellence will be the fruit of listening to God’s prior Word and act before we ourselves presume to speak.  And because the depth and riches of God’s Word are too great to absorb in a lifetime, we will have cause to listen for eternity.”

I’ll basically leave the post there, but it’s worth remembering that this week is not just about preparing this Sunday’s sermon . . . it’s more about the relational investment in response to the work of God in your life as He shapes you into the person, and the preacher, He wants you to be.  Suddenly sermon prep isn’t confined to one box in our schedule!

The Aim of Preaching Easter

What is your aim as you preach this Easter?  In his book, Sacred Rhetoric (p119-120), Michael Pasquarello makes the following comment about Martin Luther:

Luther’s homiletic aim was to demonstrate, by means of the Gospel, that the resurrection is more than an idle tale or a painted picture that evokes admiration and religious sentiment. . . . He hoped that in telling others the Easter story, the presence of the risen Christ might elicit faith’s true confession: “Christ is my Savior and King.”

Let’s not settle for a complacent approach to sermonic purpose as Easter approaches.  Why am I preaching this passage on this date to these people?  Because it’s Easter, of course!  That’s not enough, what do we aim to achieve?

What should the result be for the non-Christian present?  Luther wrote, “Although Christians will identify themselves with Judas, Caiaphas, and Pilate – sinful, condemned actors in the Gospel story – there is another who took the sins of humanity on himself when they were hung around his neck. . . . And today, Easter Sunday, when we see him, they are gone; there is only righteousness and life, the Risen Christ who comes to share his gifts.” (Sermons, 125, cited in Pasquarello, 120)

What should our Easter preaching do for Christians?  Again, same book, “Christians are now free to look away from their sins, from evil and death, and to fix their gaze upon Christ, which is the logic or grammar of faith.”

What is your aim as you preach this Easter?  Be specific.  Target your message.  Don’t waste a glorious occasion.

Review: Sacred Rhetoric, by Michael Pasquarello III

Subtitle: Preaching as a Theological and Pastoral Practice of the Church (2006)


Pasquarello is concerned by modern approaches to preaching.  He sees contemporary approaches as being obsessed with “how-to’s” at the cost of having lost the divine-human conversation – we’ve mistakenly traded in communion for consumption.  The field of homiletics, by establishing itself in distinction from the related fields of theology, exegesis, spirituality and worship, has somehow lost its moorings and become merely a technical field of somewhat sanctified communication.

This book offers nothing new, but rather seeks to reconnect us to the past.  It seeks to offer the possibility of engaging with ten esteemed mentors in the field of preaching, ten mentors from church history.  From them we can reignite a passion for true preaching – that which is “a theological and pastoral activity [of the church] that locates us in God’s story, drawing the world with us toward our true end: peace and friendship, communion with the Triune God.” As Steinmetz suggests in a quote in the conclusion, “Only when we have regained our identity from the past can we undertake our mission in the present.” (Both quotes on p135.)

The majority of the book is not a critique of present practice, but rather a presentation of ten preachers from the past.  Beginning with a slightly more lengthy treatment of Augustine, the book moves on to consider such esteemed names as Gregory the Great, Benedict, Bernard of Clairvaux, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Erasmus, Latimer, Luther and Calvin.

I do not feel adequately prepared to make judgment on whether the presentation of these men is either accurate or rightly balanced in terms of historical detail.  What I do know about church history suggested the presentations were on track.  However, as a reader I can say that this book stirred my heart for the privilege of preaching – participating in the central action of God’s story in this age.

Although short (139pp), this is not a quick read.  It takes time to ponder the presentation of each preacher.  It takes time to digest the relative benefits from conversation with each one.  It takes time, but it is worth it, for we are surely not participating in something new in our generation.  We stand as preachers, as those engaged in the glorious calling to sacred rhetoric.  Whether or not you are a regular reader of church history, this book is well worth reading as we seek to participate in God’s ongoing story.

Buy a Stained Glass Window

There is always a danger for preachers preparing to preach.  It is easy to slip into a pragmatic mode of studying a text to find a main idea and develop a message.  All very accurate, very professional, but having lost touch of the reality of what is going on.  As we spend time in God’s Word we are listening to God, preparing to speak of God to a needy group of people.  We are preparing to proclaim God’s truth as an act of love and praise.

Michael Pasquarello III, writes in his book, Christian Preaching: A Trinitarian Theology of Proclamation, that he moved his preaching classes from a seminar room to the seminary chapel.  His goal was to change the ethos in order to change the students’ mindset and approach to the preaching process.  His goal is not just accurate preaching, but “doxological speech from the canon of Holy Scripture that creates the faith, life and witness of the church, which is the work of Christ and the Spirit.”

In the past I have found it very helpful to prepare at least some of the time, in the church where I would preach the message.  This isn’t practical for all of us.  So perhaps it’s time to buy a stained glass window for our study?  What have you found helpful to stimulate the reverence and spirituality of this highly spiritual process?