No Finger Pointin’ or Pious Quotin’

…the sermon, as expression of the confessionally determined religious life of the Church, dare never degenerate into the weapon of a bigoted and heretic-baiting confessionalism. In this way, too, it would become a disturbing factor in the service. The Church cannot live by negations, however great a necessity “sound doctrine” may be. Least of all dare she foster in her midst a censorious and judging temper. The clear and positive presentation of the truth must be the rule, and this will accomplish more than all polemics or apologetics.

Where it becomes a duty to oppose an erroneous position, this should not be done with a view to condemning those who hold that position or of pillorying them as disobedient to God’s Word and enemies of the truth, — in short, not with a view to diverting attention from the matter under discussion to the representatives of opposing views, — but in order, by way of contrast, to bring the congregation to a fuller apprehension of the truth itself.

On the other hand, the habit of constantly alluding to Luther and the fondness for boasting of the mighty past, the splendid present and the still more glorious future of the Lutheran Church, so prevalent in certain quarters, are by no means in themselves the hallmarks of a genuinely Lutheran sermon. They conduce to a smug superficiality, rather than to that true inwardness that must go hand in hand with a soundly confessional sermon and life.

– Johann Michael Reu, Homiletics


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