Anatomy of a Sermon: “Gazing on the Beauty of the Lord” by David Schmitt

Editor’s note: The sermon, preached at the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis at the Dedication and Blessing of the Stained Glass Windows on November 2, 2022, is represented in italic type which can be read all at once by following the gray bars.

To be a preacher is to be an artist. With words as the medium, and with the gathering of the faithful as its setting, the preacher crafts a specific work of art for a specific people who live in a specific time and place. Preacher-artists work not for their own self-expression or benefit. Much less do they preach for God’s. Their artistic labor is an act of love for their neighbors. With heart, mind, and strength, they dedicate themselves to faithful proclamation of the promises of God in Christ Jesus. This is the heart of preaching.

For almost three decades Professor David Schmitt has been teaching the art and the heart of preaching to apprentice preachers at Concordia Seminary. To help them imagine their work, he invites them to think of a sermon as a tapestry. He compares the preacher to a weaver who has four types of thread on the loom. With creativity and skill, the preacher spins together four types of discourse—theological confession, textual exposition, evangelical proclamation, and hearer interpretation[1]—to produce a faithful and (hopefully) beautiful tapestry called a sermon.

This particular sermon was preached in the chapel at Concordia Seminary for the dedication of new stained-glass windows. Like a master weaver, Schmitt creatively combined the four threads of discourse to deliver a custom-made tapestry for the benefit of all who had gathered.

There is a joy that happens when hearing turns to seeing. I remember being at a baptismal party in Detroit. Hattie and Floyd had moved away from extended family down south when they came to Detroit. They didn’t see their family all that often. On the occasion of Hattie’s grandchild’s baptism, however, she decided to throw a great party. Her small backyard was filled with a large number of people. Everyone was running into one another and saying how great it was to see them again. And in a lawn chair by the above-ground pool was Hattie’s sister, a great auntie of the grandchild. She kept calling out, “bring the baby over here, bring the baby over here.” Hattie brought Deandra over and placed her in her sister’s hands. Her sister held her out and smiled and said, “Oh, it is so nice to see you. I’ve heard about you so long. It is so nice to see you.” And at that, she broke into a big smile and leaned in and cradled that baby with love. There is a joy that happens when hearing turns to seeing.

That is the joy that we experience today, because today we gather to celebrate the dedication of these stained-glass windows.

Christians listen to sermons at a variety of times in life. Ordinarily, they give their attention to preachers on Sunday mornings. From time to time, however, they gather for something special. A wedding, a ground-breaking, a graduation—such events are marked with special services and special sermons. We call such preaching “occasional,” for the occasion on which the sermon is delivered stands front and center in the hearts and minds of the hearers.

This was an occasional sermon. To celebrate the dedication, special invitations had been mailed. Commemorative bulletins had been printed. The Seminary community had been hearing about these windows for years. Aware of the occasional nature of this sermon, Schmitt wasted no time acknowledging the elephant in the room. His opening line (“There is a joy that happens when hearing turns to seeing”) not only captured a general truth about life, but it also named what was happening for his hearers in real time. Everything that followed was designed to help his hearers see these windows rightly.

These windows are a three-fold gift. First, they are a gift from the Fincke family. The Eugene E. and Nell S. Fincke Memorial Trust generously provided the funds for the seminary to purchase and install these windows. And we thank our donors for their concern about the spiritual life in this place. Second, they are a gift from the artist, Rich Busswell, the senior artist and designer of Lynchburg Stained Glass. Rich sat in our meetings and listened to our conversations and half-formed thoughts and took those words and made them into beauty. But third, and most importantly, they are a gift from God. God has created us to be visual creatures. People who not only hear but also see. And, today, God invites us to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to rejoice in his everlasting love.

As we prepare to dedicate these stained-glass windows, I would like to meditate on that theme: Jesus invites us to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord that we might rejoice in his everlasting love. Two points: Jesus invites us to gaze on the beauty of the Lord that we might rejoice in his everlasting love.

The preacher has two options for communicating the main idea in his sermon. The sermon could unfold inductively. Such sermons work backwards, so to speak. They begin with particular experiences, observations, and thoughts. Then, as the sermon progresses, the focus finally comes into view near the end. In an inductiv

e sermon the preacher implicitly asks his hearers to go with him without knowing exactly where they are going. This approach has been trending in homiletical conversations for the last fifty years as a result of renewed attention to the experience of listening to sermons. Advocates of the “New Homiletic”[2] encourage preachers to maximize hearer engagement by delaying the main idea until late in the sermon. When done well, inductive preaching is highly effective.

Schmitt is fully capable of delivering a faithful inductive sermon. But in this instance, he opted for the more traditional alternative by developing the sermon deductively. That is, he told the hearers what he would be telling them and then slowly unpacked his main idea over the course of the sermon. This was a wise choice for several reasons. First, the chapel was filled with guests, many of whom Schmitt did not know. More importantly, they did not know him. Inductive sermons are more challenging when the preacher does not have a personal relationship with his hearers because they require additional trust—especially in a culture dominated by suspicion. By stating upfront the focus of the sermon, Schmitt set his hearers at ease and allowed them to listen without wondering where he might be taking them. Second, a deductive approach has the potential to make more space for creativity in a sermon. This is counter-intuitive, for inductive preaching is often thought to be the more artistic choice. But deductive sermons simply shift the potential for creativity from the macro to the micro level. Instead of focusing his artistic attention on the unveiling of the overall focus, Schmitt worked within more defined spaces of individual rhetorical units to engage his hearers creatively.

Also notice that, in his deductive signaling of the main idea, Schmitt identified how this sermon would be structured. Sermon structure is an area of particular expertise for Schmitt. He teaches and writes extensively about the variety of ways in which a faithful sermon might be organized.[3] Here at the beginning of the sermon he signaled that it would follow a relatively simple thematic structure. It would have two major rhetorical units that would be related to each other according to the logic of cause and effect: “Jesus invites us to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord [Cause] that we might rejoice in his everlasting love [Effect].”

Jesus invites us to gaze. Unfortunately, we are people who need that invitation. We are accustomed to glancing rather than gazing.

This past year, I started beekeeping. And being somewhat excited about this hobby, I have taken pictures of my bees and stored them on my phone. I was talking with a friend at the symposium about beekeeping and he said that he would like to see the hive. I pulled out my phone, got a picture of the bees, and handed it to him. He glanced at the picture. I know this because he looked at the picture and then used his finger to swipe to the next photo. Much to his surprise, what once was a beehive suddenly became a glass of scotch on the table. Another hobby of mine I guess you could say. It was a healthy pour. The change in picture caught him off-guard. He handed the phone back to me and said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to swipe through your personal photos.” (So, now I’m the guy who has personal photos of scotch!) “I am just so used to swiping photos on my phone.” We laughed about what happened (and about the scotch), but he was right. We are accustomed to glancing rather than gazing.           

There is so much information that comes at us so quickly from so many different sources that we are accustomed to glancing. We swipe through our photos, we scroll through social media feeds, we skim through our playlists, we scan through our emails,. . . We have learned to handle the overwhelming amount of information by glancing rather than gazing. And that’s okay most of time. But it’s not okay when it’s people. And it’s certainly not okay when it’s God.

Homiletician Lance Pape talks about a debt that preachers owe to their hearers.[4] When accepting the call to preach, the preacher commits to being immersed in two worlds—the world of the Scriptures and the world of the hearers. The former requires attention to the thread of “textual exposition.” This is biblical exegesis. The latter requires consideration of “hearer interpretation.” This is cultural exegesis. Both are necessary. Without the former, the sermon might not be normed by the Scriptures. Without the latter, the sermon may be true, but it would not be on-target. Such sermons struggle both to affirm ways in which the hearers are living and believing rightly and to expose the ways in which they (and the preacher) are falling short. Schmitt’s attention to the world of his hearers in this paragraph shows that he is an astute observer of culture. In this digital age we are accustomed to “glancing rather than gazing” throughout the day on our smart devices. (Pew Research Center recently reported that 85 percent of American adults own a smart phone.[5]) This description of a cultural tendency is not only alliterative and memorable, but also a perfect example of why faithful preachers cannot simply regurgitate sermons preached from decades (or centuries!) past.

Importantly, Schmitt observed that glancing (and swiping) is not inherently wrong. His insistence that it is “okay most of the time” kept him from being unnecessarily critical or legalistic. It also prepared his hearers to confront ways is in which their tendency to glance is, in fact, at odds with faithful Christian living.

You are having a conversation with your friend, and she starts to bring up the topic of her daughter. You’ve been down this road before. It is a conflicted relationship. There are no easy answers, and it is a long and frustrating conversation. So, you quickly change the subject. God has brought to you a person who is suffering, and you glance rather than gaze. Or you are feeling sick and don’t want anyone else to get your cold, so rather than go to church, you choose to attend on-line worship. You set up the computer. As you listen to the prelude that never ends, you decide to pour yourself a bowl of cereal. Then, someone texts you on your phone. And so, while the congregation is confessing their sins you are committing yours. You are eating and texting and only glancing at God in worship. Or worse yet, you go to in-person worship and you are frustrated at how empty the church now feels after COVID. Everyone has not come back. And so, you spend your time glancing at all of the people who aren’t there rather than gazing at the one who is there, who has come to forgive you this day and love you into life. We have a problem with glancing rather than gazing.

After naming in abstract our tendency to glance rather than gaze, Schmitt proceeded to expose concrete ways in which it leads to sinful behavior in his hearers’ lives. This move from the abstract to the concrete is crucial for preaching. Sermons must not only be true, but they must also be appropriate for the hearers by speaking concretely to issues of everyday living. (Think of Jesus’s use of everyday life in his parables.) Novice preachers tend to struggle at this. They are usually pretty good at naming abstract vices and virtues. But they are less apt at helping their hearers envision what these ideas look like. When novice preachers do include concrete examples, they often give in to the siren song of heroic successes or epic fails that have little connection to the common lives of their hearers.

Schmitt’s artistic ability came out as he chose two relatively unremarkable but widely recognizable instances of glancing rather than gazing. The first described our tendency only to glance at people who are in need. We have all been down this path. We have all failed to be patient with the familiar suffering of those around us. His second example exposed our tendency only to glance at God. Whether we worship online or in person, we often fail to meditate honestly on God and his place in our lives. These two examples draw from both tables of the law.

In our text, Jesus has caught the disciples in a moment of glancing, and he invites them to gaze. Jesus has sent the seventy-two out in mission. He has sent them to places where he intends to go. They have lived in people’s homes, healed the sick, shared the peace, preached the kingdom. And when they come back, what do they say? They rejoice saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name.” Notice how they look at his mission by glancing on one thing they are able to do. Earlier, they had had trouble with demons. After the transfiguration, when Jesus came down from the mountain, he found his disciples in an argument with a man who brought his demon-possessed son to them, but they couldn’t cast out the demon. Now, when they cast out demons, notice how they are only glancing at God’s work. They are rejoicing in what they are able to do rather than rejoicing that some poor child’s life has been changed forever because a demon has left him. If the disciples are gazing at all, they are gazing at what they are able to do. Not what God is able to do. They fail to see the deeper, bigger picture.

So, Jesus invites them not just to glance at what they are doing. He invites them to gaze with him at what God is doing. Jesus looks deep into their eyes and says to them, “I was seeing Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” With these words, Jesus sees a much larger picture and deeper reality. Rather than see their work in these scattered places, Jesus invites them to see God’s great work throughout all time and place. They are part of a much larger mission. Jesus invites them to rejoice that hearing is finally turning into seeing. They have heard for generations that God would send a Savior to crush the skull of Satan. They have heard the promises whispered from one generation to another. Now, hearing has turned into seeing. And they see how God the Father has sent his Son to defeat Satan and rescue his people in this world. Rather than glance at what they are able to do, Jesus invites them to gaze and see how they are brought into a much larger and deeper story.

With the contrast between glancing and gazing in mind, Schmitt continued by leading his hearers into the text with a fresh lens. His use of the Bible is intentional and significant. Rather than cherry-picking a single word or phrase and applying it directly to his hearers, he located the selected verses within their surrounding context and then situated the entire episode within the larger biblical narrative: “With these words, Jesus sees a much larger picture and deeper reality. Rather than see their world in these scattered places, Jesus invites them to see God’s great work throughout all space and time.”

Schmitt has written about the need to proclaim the fulness of the biblical narrative in his article, “Telling God’s Story.” There he contrasts two ways of using the Bible in preaching.[6] He calls the first approach “telescoping” God’s story. This happens when the preacher focuses on a single event or teaching from a text and then applies it directly to the lives of the hearers. This common move seems to help preachers emphasize important events and teachings. The downside, however, is that it contributes to a fragmentation of the biblical story and the Christian life. For this reason, Schmitt encourages an alternative use of the Scriptures. He calls it “telling” God’s story. When preachers tell God’s story, they locate an event or teaching in a single text within the larger biblical context. This helps the hearers find their (small) place in a much bigger story.

In this case, Schmitt located this text within the biblical narrative by taking the hearers all the way back to the first promise of a Savior in Genesis 3: “They have heard for generations that God would send a Savior to crush the skull of Satan.” He continued by emphasizing God’s prophetic faithfulness to his people Israel: “They have heard the promises whispered from one generation to another.” Later, he will carry the story forward to the return of Jesus and the eternal feast to come.            

And these stained-glass windows do the same thing for us. As we gaze on the beauty of the Lord, we are reminded that we are part of a much larger story. The Te Deum is the theme of these windows. It is an ancient hymn of the church dating to the fourth century. Today, however, as we hear the words of the Te Deum in our ears, we can see the Te Deum take shape in these windows. The prophets, the apostles, the martyrs, praising God. The holy church throughout all the world adoring God. The heavenly host and creation itself singing praise to God for his work of salvation in Jesus Christ. As we come into worship, we are surrounded by the saints, and we see that we are part of a much larger story. As we gaze on that beauty, we see that Jesus has made a place for us in this community of saints.

After locating the disciples and this text within the broader biblical narrative, Schmitt brought his hearers into that same story. The people gathered for this sermon were celebrating much more than a set of stained-glass windows. They were part of a chorus of saints throughout the world and across the generations that praises God for his work of salvation in Jesus. One of the few suggestions I would make for this sermon comes at this point. Here Schmitt alludes to the communal reality of Christian experience: “Jesus has made a place for us in this community of saints.” This reference to our relationship with other believers is good and important. I think he could have developed this even further. Because so many listeners of sermons think of themselves predominantly as individuals who are focused most earnestly on their individual relationship with God, I find it helpful to highlight more explicitly the communal nature of the Christian life. With more attention to the church in “ecclesiologically challenged”[7] congregations, the cherished post-sermon comment— “You were speaking directly to me”—might become a more communal: “You were speaking directly to us.

I remember a shut-in I used to visit at Fairview Nursing Home. On her bureau she had a collection of family photos. But there was one that always haunted me. It was of her family on Easter. Her mom and dad and she and her sister were sitting on the front stoop of the house. Her dad was behind her in a suit and a thin tie. Her mom was next to him wearing a dress with a corsage. She was in front of her dad, wearing an Easter dress and her legs were perfectly positioned with her hands in gloves folded on her knees. Her sister was also there, in a dress, but her legs were strangely askew. In the corner of the photo, you could see the upper end of a crutch and the brace that they had taken from their daughter who had polio. That has always troubled me. Why did they take away their daughter’s crutch and brace for the Easter photo? Why did they only glance at her suffering and try to put it to the side? It was Easter. The celebration of Jesus and his triumph over all suffering. There is no suffering in our lives that cannot be filled with his presence and made part of his story.

I wish Marie were here today. I wish she could sit over there by the Feast of Nations window. If she were sitting there, she could gaze at the window and see a figure. On the far-right side, there is a man in a brown cloak who is reaching up to the table. On his right side, he extends his arm to receive the Lord’s body and blood. On his left side, however, he is leaning on a crutch. I wish Marie could sit there and gaze and see what God is doing in that window. Jesus has come to bring all people into his kingdom. We need not glance at suffering. We can gaze at it because God has claimed it from Satan and made it his own. Her sister, with polio, is part of this larger story. A story of salvation where all the children of God gather around his table, those who could walk and those who could not. For the love of God has brought a kingdom that extends to all peoples not on the basis of their abilities but on the basis of his Son. And there is a place at that table for you.

Here again the hearers benefited from Schmitt’s artistic description of an abstract truth through a concrete image. The story of Marie’s family photo was developed inductively. Schmitt began by describing an unexceptional visit to a nondescript nursing home. He shared just enough detail to help his hearers recall their own institutional visits. Without saying it explicitly, his reference to the photograph was an invitation to meditate on another image. But unlike the new stained-glass windows, this image was not visually displayed. Which is a good reminder that image-based preaching does not requires a screen or projector or visual artifact. The description of an image can be as powerful as displaying it because it engages the imagination of the hearers. Recall again how you imagined the photo of Marie and her sister and ask yourself who and what came to mind.

Schmitt used the image to highlight what the family in the photo was trying to conceal. The brokenness and suffering of Marie’s sister were pushed aside, as if hiding her suffering would make it go away. Schmitt contrasts this approach to suffering with the image of the crippled man in the new Feast of Nations window. Rather than looking away from one who is broken, the designer of the windows invites us hearers to see the physical suffering of those around us. Schmitt used this detail to proclaim a profound theological truth: “We need not glance at suffering. We can gaze at it because God has claimed it from Satan and made it his own.” Here Schmitt was working with the thread of “theological confession” by reflecting on how Christians deal with suffering.

Overall, suffering is a subject that Christians struggle to address. We are tempted to ignore it, or to explain it away in an effort to justify the God who allows (and even causes) it. Lutheran theology, however, especially with its understanding of the theology of the cross that Luther set forth in his Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, is well-suited to deal honestly and faithfully with suffering. It was smart of Schmitt to leave out explicit mention of Luther’s historic debate. Had Schmitt taken his hearers to sixteenth-century Germany, he would have led them away from images of the lowly and crippled in their own lives and transported them to an academic lecture hall from centuries past. Instead, Schmitt spoke out of a pattern of sound speech that Luther offered the church. A theologian of the cross “calls a thing what it actually is” (Heidelberg Thesis 21). The suffering of Jesus was neither beautiful nor good. Yet we gaze at it in faith and gratitude, trusting that through Jesus’s suffering God was showing his loving power. Because the crucified one is also risen, Christians look differently at suffering. Theologians (and preachers) of the cross name suffering for the evil that it is while also proclaiming the promise that Jesus has suffered for us and with us. The gospel—which is the heart of preaching—is the good news that the crucified one is risen from the dead and shares his resurrected life with us who continue to suffer in these gray and latter days. Jesus has promised to return and make all things new, and this promise empowers us to face and bear suffering together as a community.

Earlier, I said that there is a joy that happens when hearing turns to seeing. There is also a joy that happens when seeing turns into someone seeing and caring for you.

Brief as they may be, transitions play an important role in sermons. They bring back those who have gotten lost in their own thoughts, and they signal to the hearers that it is time to move to the next rhetorical unit. This is important, for effective preachers should expect to lose their hearers at some point in the sermon precisely because they have touched on ideas that ignite reflection. In this case, Schmitt’s invitation to meditate on the crippled man in the Feast of Nations window easily sent hearers to consideration of their own and their loved ones’ forms of brokenness. But now the preacher is ready to move along, and he wants his hearers to go with him. These two brief sentences provided closure for thinking about our own glancing and an opening to begin thinking about the one who gazes at us.

There is an art to looking at a stained-glass window. Because of its design, you can’t take it all in at first glance. You have to gaze. I remember a woman who taught me how to look at stained-glass windows. She was at a Bible class I was teaching on art and stained glass. She told us about her window. It was not dedicated by her family. Instead, it was the window where her family always sat in church. A stained-glass window of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Perhaps you’ve seen them. Jesus holding a lamb. With other sheep around him. She told me this was her family’s pew at church. She had been looking at this window for years. She told me, “When I was a young mother, my family used to sit with me. I would think about how I was caring for my children like Jesus was caring for that lamb. Now, however, my husband is deceased, and my children have moved to the coasts. Now,” she said, “I see how Jesus is there caring for me.” This woman was gazing at the window and experiencing that mysterious change. Seeing had changed for her. Seeing had turned into someone seeing and caring for her.       

This is the mysterious shift that Jesus brings about for his disciples. As Jesus invites his disciples to gaze into the work of God, there is a subtle shift that happens. The subtle shift is that instead of them seeing the Lord, they see the Lord seeing them. In the text, Jesus corrects the disciples. He turns their attention from what they are seeing to the fact that they are being seen. As Jesus continues to speak to the disciples, he says to them, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names have been written in heaven.” Jesus turns the attention of the disciples to an action of God that is foundational and eternal. Their names have been written in heaven and will never be removed.

The beauty of the Lord is that Jesus is a Savior who sees. He sees Zacchaeus in the tree and invites himself into his home. He sees Matthew at the tax collector’s booth and calls him to be a disciple. He sees Peter kneeling before him in a boat that is sinking with a miraculous catch of fish, begging that Jesus not go away, because he is a sinner. But Jesus stays. Why? Because he is the Lord who see sinners and saves. This Jesus willingly drinks the cup of God’s wrath for all sin and thereby frees you from suffering the punishment for your sin. This Jesus rises from the dead and thereby overcomes death and the devil for you. And this Jesus will return in judgment, and thereby bring about a restoration of all creation. Rejoice, Jesus tells the disciples, not that the spirits are subject to your power. No, rejoice that God has seen you, died for you, rose for you, and will return for you.    

To bring this idea home, I would invite you to gaze on one small detail in only one window. As you look at the windows, you will notice that there is one detail that sets the front window apart from all of the others. In all of the other windows, you see angels and apostles and martyrs gazing. They are looking at one another. None of the angels or saints are looking at you. Moses looks to the promised land, Ruth looks to David, David looks to God. Philip looks to the Ethiopian and the Ethiopian looks to the water. No one looks at you. But when you come to the front window, you see a Savior who sees you. Jesus sees you and saves.

These four short paragraphs are pure gospel. The thread of “evangelical proclamation” is on full display as Schmitt proclaims the promise of Jesus directly to his hearers. Notice the movement. The first paragraph introduces the idea that those who gaze at pictures of Jesus are gazing at one who sees them. The second paragraph takes this idea directly to the text and directs attention away from the disciples. The good news is not what they have seen but rather that they have been seen. In the third paragraph, Schmitt opens up other parts of the biblical story where God seeing people is good news. Zacchaeus, Matthew, Peter. The list could have gone on and on. This leads to the fourth paragraph, which draws once more on the stained-glass windows to deliver the climax of the sermon and the heart of the gospel: “Jesus sees you and saves.”

One of the great challenges of preaching for this dedication was choosing which of the many intricate details in the new windows to emphasize. Schmitt restricted himself to two. The first was the crippled man in the Feast of Nations window. The second was as beautiful as it was obvious. Schmitt directed attention to the eyes of Jesus in the central resurrection window. Jesus sees us, and he saves us. By pointing out that Jesus is the only person in any of the windows who is looking at us, Schmitt changed the way every person in chapel that day will look at the resurrection window ever again. There he is, front and center. The risen Lord of all creation looking graciously at us. This gospel promise will reverberate—for me, at least—every time I step foot in the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus.

This is so necessary. So necessary for us. Because there are days when we wander in here and wonder if anyone sees us. Do we matter? Would anyone miss us if we were gone? There are days when we get tired of the fighting. So tired of the fighting. Days when we are ready to lay down our arms and walk away. But we continue to fight, and we end up wounded. When the fights you have fought have left you broken and bleeding, when the pains you’ve endured have made you a hurting person who hurts people, when what you have said and done makes it hard for you to look at yourself in the mirror, come to this chapel and look at this front window. Because there you will see it. Jesus has risen and he rules over all things in love. This ruling and reigning Jesus sees and watches over you.         

This Jesus willingly drinks the cup of God’s wrath for all sin for you. This Jesus has risen from the dead and overcomes death and the devil for you. And this Jesus promises to return in judgment and bring about a new creation. Until that time, however, this Jesus remains here. Always. Seeing and caring for you.

The stained-glass windows are overwhelming in their beauty, but the true beauty of the windows is that they overwhelm you with God’s everlasting love. Jesus invites us to gaze at the beauty of the Lord that we might rejoice in his everlasting love. Amen.

When I took my introduction to preaching course twenty-three years ago with a young professor named David Schmitt, we read through C. F. W. Walther’s Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel. On the first page of Walther’s first evening lecture (September 12, 1884), the first president of Concordia Seminary and the homiletical point of reference for preaching in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod said this, “I wish to talk the Christian doctrine into your very hearts, enabling you in your future calling to come forward as living witnesses with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. I do not want you to stand in your pulpits like lifeless statues, but to speak with confidence and with cheerful courage offer help where help is needed.”[8]

No one would ever accuse Dr. David Schmitt of being a lifeless statue! Much to the contrary, the zeal, sincerity, and joy with which David preaches the good news of Jesus shows that he believes what he says. Not only does his passion for preaching inspire apprentice preachers year in and year out, but it also makes this annotated manuscript a shadow of what Schmitt delivered in chapel. For this reason, I recommend watching the recorded version. to experience it more closely to the way it was delivered.[9]


Dr. Peter Nafzger is assistant professor of Practical Theology and director of Student Life at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.



End Notes

[1] See David Schmitt, “The Tapestry of Preaching,” Concordia Journal 37, no. 2 (2011): 107–129.

[2] For a summary of the contours of and major figures in the New Homiletic, see O. Wesley Allen, Jr., “The Pillars of the New Homiletic” in The Renewed Homiletic (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010).

[3] Schmitt has identified more than thirty ways a sermon could be structured: See also his reflection on the popular “Law, then Gospel” structure in “Richard Caemmerer’s Goal, Malady, Means: A Retrospective Glance,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 74, no. 1–2 (2010): 3–18.

[4] Lance B. Pape, The Scandal of Having Something to Say (Baylor, TX: Baylor University Press, 2013), 121–146.

[5] Accessed January 5, 2023.

[6] David Schmitt, “Telling God’s Story,” Concordia Journal 40, no. 2 (2014): 101–112.

[7] The phrase “ecclesiologically challenged” comes from an article by Charles Arand. See his “What Are Ecclesiologically Challenged Lutherans to Do? Starting Points for a Lutheran Ecclesiology” in Concordia Journal 34, no. 3 (2008): 157–171.

[8] C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, trans. W. H. C. Dau.( St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928).

[9] A recording of this sermon is available online. It is posted with a conversation about the behind-the-scenes work. See





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