As with any craft, preaching requires intentional disciplines which help form both the sermon as well as the preacher. The following practices, from Prof. John Pless’ Pastoral Theology class at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, will prove to be beneficial for a preacher’s weekly sermon preparations.
1. Format your week around a sermon writing schedule, like the following:
Translation and Exegetical Work without Commentaries. Where are the literary “speed bumps” in the pericope?
Consult one or two reliable commentaries. Do they challenge or confirm your exegetical conclusions? Check the index of the Book of Concord. How do the Confessions cite this text?
Develop a “concept,” that is, what is the main point which you will seek to proclaim?
Outline. Here see G. Aho, The Lively Skeleton.
Write Sermon. Recall Bonhoeffer’s warning about writing a sermon too early lest it become like day-old manna!
2. Throughout the week ponder the text in light of Luther’s triad: Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio.
3. Preach the text to yourself! “te totum applica ad textum, rem totum applica ad te” (“Apply your whole self to the text, apply the whole matter to yourself”- J.A. Bengel). How does it apply in your life? This will probably carry-over into the lives of your people too.
4. Use the text in hospital and shut-in visits. This will bless them and begin to sharpen your use of the text as well.
5. As you write the sermon, strive to be direct and concrete in speaking both Law and Gospel. Do not talk about the text, rather proclaim the text. Here also remember Thielicke’s advice to the effect that the preacher’s exegesis should be like his underwear: He should have it on but never let it show in the pulpit.