Homiletics 2 File 21 Professor Carl Fickenscher II Questions by: Paul and Nick >> PAUL: Don't we have excellent resources among the theologians and preachers who have have preceded us? How about getting help from Luther and people like that? >> PROF. FICKENSCHER: That is an excellent next step. Step 7, we would look at the doctrinal uses through history. We certainly want to be aware of ways that the church has used a particular passage. That would certainly guide our interpretation and it would also guide our application, because the church has used particular passages, for example, to respond to various controversies, and those controversies are always real live applications to be considered for their relevance also today. Also, as we look back through theory, we want to be aware of whether the church has used a particular passage as a sedes doctrinae. Perhaps you know that term. A sedes doctrinae is a seat of doctrine. It's a passage in scripture that is the most clear and most foundational passage for a particular teaching, like on baptism or on holy communion or on the priesthood of all believers and so on and so on and so on. If the church has found a particular passage to be the clearest and most elucidating passage on a particular doctrine, then when we preach on a text that includes that passage, we definitely want to include that for the building up of knowledge of our people and for a deepening of their doctrinal understanding. So how do you find out whether the church has used particular passages through the years? Well, there's no limit on the possible sources here, but there are some excellent ones we could start with. You mentioned Luther, and that's a great place to begin. Perhaps you know that the final volume of the American Edition of Luther's Works this would be Volume 55 is a comprehensive index. It's detailed. It's very lengthy. In fact, it's so detailed that going through it for a particular topic can be rather tedious. But when you're looking for Luther's use of a particular text, it's really very straightforward. It's very easy, for example, to turn to the New Testament index and find that the gospel of Luke 9, our text, has been used in a number of particular settings, according to this index, and you could then look and pull off the shelf, for example, Volume 35, Page 245, and see what Luther says about a particular verse of this text. And this is really a rather deep wealth of resources. Certainly you want to be aware of how our Lutheran confessors may have used a particular passage. That may be your best clue as to a sedes doctrinae. The Book of Concord, either the Tappert edition or the Kolb edition, each would also include a very fine index of the scriptural passages included, and so it's an easy matter here as well to turn to that index and see whether Luke's account of the Transfiguration is mentioned in any particular passage of all of the Lutheran confessions. Historically, the chief dogmatics text of our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, of course, has been the work, the three volume work of Franz Pieper. There is also a fourth volume here as well, which is exclusively an index, and here again, the index is very comprehensive to examine all the places that particular passages are used in Pieper's discussion of each doctrine. This is truly a wealth of resources because if you're familiar with Pieper's Dogmatics, you know that he goes into great depth with numerous proof passages, essentially, to demonstrate our Lutheran position on various teachings of the faith. By the way, if you haven't already had a good chance to work through the three textual volumes of Pieper's Dogmatics, that's certainly a worthwhile study in itself for any Lutheran pastor. And finally, another readily available source and one that is very valuable and not to be overlooked would be the handbook, the Hymnal Companion for our hymnal, Lutheran Worship. There is a similar book also for The Lutheran Hymnal, TLH, and there will undoubtedly be one for the new hymnal when it all the auxiliary material is completed as well. Here, too, one can look and see if a particular passage in scripture, in the index in the back, is used in one of the hymns in our hymnal. That, of course, has potential in your hymn selection for the Sunday, but more than that, the way a particular passage is used in a hymn often helps to indicate the traditional understanding of that passage. Whether it is used in application one way or another is often discerned or discernible from the way it occurs in some of the truly the most popular literature of our church, which would be our hymns. In this way, then, it is possible to at least begin to get a feel for how particular passages in this case, from Luke 9 might have been used by some of our fathers in the faith and receive also their guidance and their benefit for our preaching. Let me add that a number of these resources and others are available electronically on the Concordia Electronic Theological Library. Specifically, the index to Luther's works. Also to the Book of Concord and, at this point, portions of Pieper. And, again, a wealth of other sources as well. So it's certainly worth examining the indices on the electronic sources also. These can be very valuable, in each of these cases, in discovering how the passages have been used historically and to enable these fathers of the faith to share with us their wisdom and their help in our preaching also. >> NICK: So now you go to the commentaries? >> PROF. FICKENSCHER: Well, after just one more step first. And it is a very crucial step. Really, it's the culmination of everything you've done in your exegetical process so far. Step No. 8 is to formulate a precise, one sentence central thought of the text. Now, at this point, you've done a lot of excellent exegetical work. You've raised a lot of questions. Most of them, you probably can be fairly confident that you have answered. But what you do not want to do in a sermon is throw out, in scatter shooting form, all kinds of good ideas. For a sermon to be a real sermon, it has to synthesize all of those ideas into an idea that the congregation can absorb and understand. I remember, for example, when I was in my last congregation and I had a number of vicars over the years, and my ordinary activity in preparing the vicars for their preaching each week went like this: We had a weekly staff meeting on Wednesday morning with myself, our associate pastor, when we had an associate, vicars, secretary, and staff, and the beginning the first item of every staff meeting each Wednesday was, for whichever one of us myself or associate, my vicar who would be preaching that Sunday to lead a brief devotion using his text for the upcoming Sunday. Whatever text he had chosen, he would take us through, really very informally there was no expectation that it would be a structured kind of devotion, that it would be ready for preaching by any means, but the idea was simply to introduce us to the text and then give us an opportunity to talk a little bit about it, and all the people involved would frequently have ideas that would make for very meaningful applications when Sunday finally came. Now, for each of my vicars, it started out this way: The first couple of times that they were up to preach, they would give an excellent look at the text from an exegetical standpoint. They'd have a lot of marvelous discoveries. I had very good vicars. And they always were very excited to share those discoveries they had made as they had worked through the language and studied the text. And of course I would enjoy all those insights, too. They were also very helpful to me. But after my vicars had offered all of these various and very interesting exegetical ideas, I would say, "Great. Now, in one sentence, what do you want to say Sunday?" And you know what would happen. First, there would be a long pause, and my vicar would look down and think for just a moment, and then he would look up and he would start to talk, and he would say one, two, three, four sentences. And after about the fourth sentence, I'd say, "Ah, now, wait a minute. In one sentence, tell me what you want to say." Then there would usually be a real long pause, and the first couple of times for each of my vicars, there would be something like, "Well, I don't know." And we'd work through together all of those marvelous ideas that he'd raised until we had discovered how they all related to one another, how they interacted, what the real point of all those exegetical discoveries really was. As you might guess, by the third or fourth time that my vicars preached, they knew the question was coming and they were always well prepared. It really is crucial, at the end of the exegetical process, after all these discoveries have been made and laid out, to decide what they all have to do with one another. Because, you see, the Holy Spirit really did not inspire a lot of loose ends here and there. Just as in any human interaction, using any human language, we talk in thought blocks, we put together a sequence of sentences and ideas that have some kind of controlling idea, so also the Holy Spirit inspired the scriptures themselves. And until we have discovered what all of these various passages, each of these ideas, really have in common, we really haven't discovered the significance of any of them. And of course you can imagine then how difficult it would be for a hearer of a sermon to go home understanding what has been said, if the preacher himself has not really understood the significance of any of the elements that he has laid out. It usually is true when, as my vicars would do initially, they were unable to synthesize into one sentence what they wanted to say, that they themselves really had not reached that conclusion. They really themselves had not yet discovered what the text was really about. The exercise of struggling to express the ideas of the text in one concise sentence really is a necessary struggle to make that discovery ultimately also for ourselves as preachers. And so a very important step, Step No. 8, is to formulate one sentence into a central thought of the text. What should that sentence be like? Well, it should certainly be complete. It should cover all the major elements of the text. But it should be brief, as brief as we possibly can, while yet touching on all of the major elements. Very importantly, that sentence that we form should be unique to this text. For example, for any text in scripture, we could say something like, "God, through Christ Jesus, saves us." It's true. And frankly, it's what every passage of scripture is about. But each section of scripture develops, delivers that one basic truth in a unique way. The Holy Spirit simply did not inspire repetition from Genesis to Revelation, but, rather, different ways to convey that one key message. And so the idea and the language of your central thought sentence should be unique to this text. It should pick up details that are in this text, that are in other texts. It should use words, whenever possible, that are in this text that are different from the way the Holy Spirit inspired other texts to be written. In this particular text, from Luke 9, we might say something like, "In the Transfiguration, Jesus revealed his glory to Peter, James and John, to prepare them for his exodus or his departure which was soon to come in Jerusalem." Now, notice, that covers the basic bases of the text. It tells what happened. But it also gives the significance of the text. And uniquely so, because as we observed earlier, it's only in Luke's account of the Transfiguration that departure, that exodus is explicit. Notice also that the central thought should at least begin to imply and usually express rather clearly the law and gospel applications of the text. Here, we talk about preparing for the departure. That is to say, that at the departure, at Jesus' death on the cross, the disciples would need preparation. They would be seriously thrown for a loop. They would be tremendously discouraged. And yet Jesus, in his love and his wisdom, was doing what was necessary to carry them through. Note the law and the gospel kinds of implications involved there. The central thought is to give us in one sentence the law, the gospel unique to this particular step. Now, after you've done all this work on your own and formulated what you believe to be an accurate conclusion of what the text is about, the central thought, then it's a great time to go to the commentaries and see if you're way off base, which I doubt will be the case, or perhaps if you want to modify your direction just a little bit. But think about how important it really is to do your own work, your own creative thinking, your own exegetical study, before you go to the experts for the answers. >> NICK: So that's the last step of the exegetical process, right? >> PROF. FICKENSCHER: You got it.