It’s Friday, and so ministers are getting their sermons ready. A minister who preaches on a biblical text, not all do, will usually spend the early part of the week studying and meditating upon the text. While musing about how the truth of the Word can best be delivered to the hearers, he goes about the other tasks of ministry. Visiting in the hospital or care facility, bumping into a parishioner at Walmart, sitting in meetings… Where can Sunday’s text best meet the people’s experiences?
Martin Luther: “A preacher is like a carpenter. His tool is God’s Word. Because he works on hearers who are different, the preacher shouldn’t continually use the same tone of speaking, but should speak in different ways that correspond to the differences in hearers. Sometimes he will comfort, other times terrify, scold, conciliate, and so on.” (Mit Luther durch das Jahr, 170).
This week I was in Wisconsin talking with eight pastors about preaching. These are new pastors, some only a few months into their new calls, the most experienced with four years. It’s part of our church’s program designed to help new pastors transition from the seminary academia to actual congregational ministry. Our discussions were wide-ranging, but now back home, one need rose to the top. For the pastor to prepare sermons that help different types of people see Jesus Christ, he must immerse himself in the Scriptures. The Bible’s insights into people are deeper than psychology, its solutions are not therapy but faith, and its promises sustain and give hope to hearers in their unique journeys toward eternity. It is God who gives the increase through His Word (1 Corinthians 3:6; Isaiah 55:10-11), but, following Luther’s comparison, the pastor’s hand must be one with the tool of his trade.
Offer a prayer as your pastor is preparing the Word for you.