Homiletics 2 File 22 Professor Carl Fickenscher II Question by: Paul >> PAUL: Okay. I've been taking notes. Let's see if I really did get this. Step 1, text selection. You determine an appropriate text, usually one of the pericopes from the lectionary. Step 2, you consider the liturgical context. You look at the other lessons, the introit, the gradual, the collect, the hymn of the day. You think about the season and the Sunday of the church year. And, you remember it's the highest and best time of the week that people have to come at this time to this place and for this reason. Step 3, explore the biblical context, the background and flow of the whole Bible book, the passages all around the text. Step 4, read through the text and overview, using the vernacular. Ask questions of the text. Get to know it. Try to anticipate questions of difficulty the congregation will have when they hear it read in the service. Notice interesting images in the context. Compare translations. How am I doing? >> PROF. FICKENSCHER: Very well. Keep going. >> PAUL: Step 5, examine the text in detail. If I can use the Greek or Hebrew, I'll do it here. Now I'm trying to answer my own questions, looking at the kind of literature the text is poem, historical narrative, parable, whatever checking out the difficult words, the grammar, especially looking for the law elements and the gospel elements in the text. Step 6, compare parallel passages and conduct word studies. That means using marginal notes and concordances and word books to see what light similar references shed on our text. With parallels, I'm especially looking to figure out why the Holy Spirit inspired the different writers to describe different details of the same event. Step 7, survey doctrinal uses. Check indices of Luther, Pieper, the Book of Concord, the Hymnal Companion, books like that, to see how the church has used the verses for its teaching. And Step 8, formulate a precise one sentence central thought of the text. Yes, one sentence. That's it. >> PROF. FICKENSCHER: Oh, and there is one more thing. Now, we're almost beginning to move here into the next unit on arrangement, but I'll mention it very briefly at this point as well. From that central thought of the text which summarized your entire exegetical process, you do also now want to formulate a one sentence theme for the sermon. Let's talk about that just very, very quickly, and then that will be discussed further later on. The theme is also one sentence, but now we're talking and you might want to write this down about a one about one memorable sentence and I always put in parentheses here "a real subject and a real predicate" usually expressed in relation to the present day hearer that summarizes the entire sermon. Let's talk about that for just one second. Notice, first of all, it is, again, one sentence. And when I say, "a real subject and a real predicate," I put that in for emphasis, don't I. It's true that a sermon can simply be based on a phrase, but the truth is, a phrase only raises possibilities; sentences make points. And ultimately, your sermon is to have a point, not just raise possibilities. What you put on the marquee outside the church, that could be a phrase, if you want. There you want to pique interest, raise curiosity, just raise possibilities. But as you preach the sermon and also as you prepare the sermon in your writing process, you want to know the real point that you're actually making. Now, this theme may not give the conclusions, may not show everything that's going to be developed as you go through the sermon, but at least it should raise the question that will definitely point to the final solution that you perhaps only know at this point. The theme is essentially the peg on which everything else is hung throughout the entire sermon. Every sentence, from beginning to end, should in one way or another grow from the theme, develop the theme, demonstrate the theme, prove the theme, support the theme, apply the theme. Everything that happens during the sermon should explain or illustrate this one particular sentence. By the way, one might ask how this differs from the central thought of the text. Well, usually in this sense: The central thought of the text is usually expressed in the world of the text. That is, we speak in the Transfiguration of Peter and James and John and how Jesus revealed to them his glory. Also, as in that case, ordinarily the central thought of the text is expressed in the past tense, in the past tense world of the original hearers. The theme of the sermon is usually expressed, as I said, in the present tense world of your congregation. Rather than Jesus revealing his glory to Peter and James and John, he reveals present tense his glory to us to prepare us for his exodon, his exodus, his departure in Jerusalem. So there is a very close relationship between the central thought and the theme, and certainly to form your theme you begin with that central thought and think of how now it might be polished and applied to the present day hearers. It's also true that the theme of the sermon differs from the central thought ordinarily in that it will intentionally be more concise, perhaps more memorable, language perhaps a bit more provocative, perhaps less definitive, because you do want to leave open the various intrigues that you will finally develop as the sermon goes on. While the theme should summarize everything that's going to happen, you don't want to give all the story away up front in the beginning of your sermon when you express that. A couple of things actually five I might suggest to critique your theme, once you have formulated it. And, by the way, I suggest to my students that the theme actually comes into being this way. You, on the screen in front of you on your computer, type a sentence that of course is based on your central thought and is in the present tense world of your congregation and look at it for a second. Maybe look at it for quite a few seconds. Step back and think, "Does this really do everything I want it to do?" And try again. And again. And again. Using criteria like this: First of all, is that theme textual? That is, does it really express the ideas of the text which you've summarized in your central thought, and does it express them in words that are unique to this text? Remember the central thought, we said, was to be unique to the particular text and that holds true just as much for the theme of the sermon. Are the words and ideas really unique to this text? Would it really be inappropriate to use this same theme next Sunday on next Sunday's text? It should be a theme that works this week, this text, and not at least many other texts and many other Sundays. Secondly, does your theme cover the whole text? If you've done a good job with your central thought, this should be a relatively easy thing to do. It's a mistake, however, to pick out a theme that isolates one particular passage of the text if, in fact, that passage of the text is not a summary of the entire text. Remember we said last time that the Holy Spirit did not inspire disjointed little pearls and gems in most cases, in most genres of the biblical literature. In most cases, the Holy Spirit inspired thought blocks. And so it would ordinarily be a mistake if your theme only covered one particular detail of the text, rather than covering the entire thought block, the full pericope. Third, will your theme, since it is to be a summary of the entire sermon, allow law and gospel to be proclaimed with the gospel predominating? This, obviously, is a crucial checkpoint as you evaluate your theme. Can you see, in reading that one sentence, how from that sentence as a summary you can really express the law of the text? Can you also see how, from that sentence, you can also proclaim the gospel of the text and can you see how the gospel will ultimately win out? For example, if the theme statement you have formulated is itself a gospel statement, then it's quite easy to see how the gospel will, in fact, win out in this sermon if you proclaim this sentence in its fullness. On the other hand, if the sentence that you have formulated for for the theme is a law sentence, a law statement, then you have to be aware that somehow or other, beyond what is clearly implied in the theme statement, the gospel is to be is to win out. It's possible. It's a red flag, however, and you have to say to yourself, "Hmm, law sentence here. Will the gospel really win out? Do I know how I will answer this law problem, ultimately, with gospel and let it predominate?" Fourth, is your theme sentence succinct and memorable? As we said, you ordinarily want this sentence to be one that is just cut very cleanly, very tightly, and worded in a remarkable, memorable way, so that your hearers, upon hearing this sentence and remembering this simple sentence, will be able to reconstruct in their minds the basic movement of the entire sermon. That requires a very carefully crafted, brief sentence. And finally, number five, does your theme relate to the hearers? Can you see from that present tense, present day world view hearer's sentence how there will be clear application for your congregation? It may be that after you have written that one sentence that you think will be your theme, you check your five criteria here and say, "Hmm, not bad on Verses 28 to 30, but it really doesn't cover 31 to 36. There's something I need to incorporate here that isn't all there yet." Or, more frequently, "Yeah, it says what I want to say, but it's a little wordy. It's not as succinct. The language is not very colorful." Or, "The language is not unique to this text. It's generic. It uses theological jargon that isn't particularly special or particularly unique, implied in this text. How can I polish that?" And yes, you'll try another theme sentence on your computer and work with it, critique it, and another, and another, and another, and another. I tell my students that this step, formulating this one sentence, the theme sentence, can often be a step that takes an hour or several hours, often something you work with for a while, go away and do other pastoral things, and come back and finally formulate in just the way you're going to go with it for the sermon after a rather significant interruption of perhaps several hours or perhaps a day or two. This is a tremendously important step.