I thought about writing a book about writing sermons. It takes a certain amount of hubris to think that you can write a book to begin with, and then there is a certain amount of vanity that thinks anyone would read it. Then there has to be a certain amount of self promotion to get the thing up and running and I have come to the conclusion that it is probably too much work. The idea of preaching itself is daunting and when I read essays about the task it gets down right scary. In an essay called “Categorical Preaching”, Steven Paulson says, “preachers are not just playing to a tough audience, they are speaking to people who literally cannot hear them”.
There is enough in that statement to write a book about I suppose, but the same people who literally can’t hear a preacher are just as likely not to read a book about preaching. Then there is the words of our Lord thanking the Father in heaven that He has “hidden these things from the wise and understanding and has revealed them to little children”. What are these things that are hidden? Luther says it is Christ himself and God the Father, and that knowledge cannot be attained, it has to be revealed. Paul says it is revealed by preaching, “faith comes by hearing” and all. And now we are back to the beginning. How can they hear without a preacher? When the preacher comes they cannot hear anyway? It gets pretty confusing. That is where the Holy Spirit comes in.
Speaking of Luther, he watched the multiplication of books by preachers and wasn’t really thrilled.
“Were I to speak of what goes on in pulpits, however, then things would really become boundless. The monks daily preached their new visions, dreams, and notions, new miracles and examples, and that without moderation. There was scarcely a monk who, when he had been a preacher for two or three years, did not publish a new sermon book which was to rule the pulpit for a time. Though the world was full of such books there was still nothing in them about Christ and faith, but all about our works, merits, and devotion with many false and scandalous illustrations”.
LW 34:26 Exhortation to clergy assembled at Augsburg