The St. Louis Symposium is a little over a month away and already it is a bust in my mind.  Here is why.  Having just graduated from St. Louis (that is I think I graduated even though I have not paid my final bill) I have a very clear account of just what kind of homiletical instruction goes on there.  Now, for sure, my account of things will be skewed.  I struggle with the lack of respect I have for the practical department instruction going on in St. Louis.  Sadly, this also makes me, more often than not, transgress the fourth commandment.  I am saying this for myself and anyone like me.  But still, the Symposium will be a bust.  Let us start with the title.

“Rediscovering the Art of Homiletics” This title seems adventuresome, brave, pioneering even.  However, in my mind, I ask “has the artfulness of homiletics gone someplace that it needs to be rediscovered?”  No.  It has not.  If there is one thing that is very apparent to me as I have seen and heard the homiletical noise from pulpits in my short life it is that artfulness is in no need of rediscovery when it comes to homiletics.  In-fact let us bury some of what we currently possess. 

As I see it there is no shortage of performance art, quivering voices, winsome laughter, visual aids, jokes, and/or stories that fill the time when a man speaks from the pulpit.  I have seen M&M’s and the worn out Life Saver used to death. I have seen Biblical Role Play (I can only handle attempts at reincarnating Paul or Moses so many times).  Passionate diatribes about the beauty of marriage where two persons come from the back wearing a Tux and Gown, this extends then to the violence of divorce where the couple has a fight in the middle of the sanctuary and storms out.  In my opinion formed by experience, let us bury some artfulness rather than rediscover any more.  But, what am I saying, and what am I not saying?

What I am not saying is that preaching is to strive for boredom.  I am not saying that at all.  Good presentation, clear speech, clear points, even interaction with the congregation, all these might be beneficial for the preacher and the hearer.  I am not saying preaching is to be boring.  I think what I am saying is that our preaching has become so artful that we no longer need and pointers on finding more ways to make it artful, especially from St. Louis Seminary.  After all, isn’t this a “Theological Symposium”?  Then let us find a new name to call it and let the presentations begin!

How about, “Rediscovering our reason for Preaching”?  This sounds like a good title which leads to what might be a hearty, fruitful discussion.  “Why do we preach anyway?”  I wonder if the practical theologians have had to answer that question?  I wonder if the Systematic Theologians have had to answer that question, because if this is a Theological Symposium, would it not behoove us to have a theological discussion?  Yes, I think it might.  What are the foundations for preaching in the first place?  And then, what is/are good answer to that question, if there is more than one.  To my mind this is a more fitting, more theological, discussion to be had.  Because I am convinced the artfulness of our preaching has increased to cover over the reality that many are lacking any good reasons for preaching in the first place.  I am afraid many are lacking a good reason because they might not have been given a good reason to preach in the first place.  I know most of my homiletical training had to do with Grammar, and properly color coding Law & Gospel within the body of writing.  Again, I am afraid this is inadequate, the instruction and the symposium, for where we are in the Lutheran Church and her preaching pastors.  In any case, we need no more art.  We abound with art.  We have a greater stockpile than New York and Paris combined.  Let us bury some and rediscover why any of us pastors might dare get in a pulpit on Sunday in the first place.

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