Central Image


This sermon structure uses a single image throughout the sermon and fosters devotional contemplation of an image.

In the opening of the sermon, the preacher describes the image for the hearers.  The preacher then uses that image as a source for continuing devotional contemplation throughout the sermon:  the image serves as a lens through which one views the textual exposition, the theological confession, the evangelical proclamation, and the hearer interpretation of the sermon.  Having a single image lends coherence to the sermon.

As the preacher returns to the image periodically throughout the sermon, he may approach it in one of two ways:  through a single focus or a multiple focus.

With a single focus, the image remains the same throughout the sermon.  The preacher may approach that image from one perspective (for example, viewing the image from the perspective of the artist who created it) or the preacher may approach that image from a variety of perspectives (for example, viewing the same image from the perspective of different people who come into contact with it), but the image itself remains the same.

If approaching the image from one perspective, the sermon can reinforce a single theme in a variety of situations.  For example, the first encounter with the image can establish a theme and then, as the preacher uses the image again in the sermon, it can locate that theme in relation to the text and then, later, in relation to the hearers.

If approaching the image from a variety of perspectives, the sermon can develop or unfold the theme.  For example, the first encounter with the image could evoke an interpretation that will later be expanded or even corrected in the sermon.  By changing how the image is seen, the hearers are able to track the basic development of a larger theme in the sermon.  Each stage of development (e.g., moving from a misconception to a clearer vision, moving from application in terms of one’s relationship to God to application in terms of one’s relationship to others, or moving from repentance to forgiveness and finally to restoration) is captured by preaching the image through a different perspective.

With a multiple focus, each time the preacher returns to the image, he focuses upon a different aspect of that image.  The preacher may begin by looking at the whole image and then focus upon one detail and then another.  Or he may look at smaller details and, in the conclusion of the sermon, consider the image as a whole.  If the image is displayed, the preacher may crop the image so that only a small detail is revealed, helping the hearers focus upon that particular aspect at that point in the sermon.  In terms of the progression of the sermon, the image itself serves as a map of the ideas of the sermon, each portion meditated upon at different points in the sermon.  For example, the preacher may use an artistic representation of a biblical event to walk the hearers through the text, slowing down the progression of the story to meditate upon various individuals and their experience of the event.


Sermon by Dr. Gerhard Bode preached in Chapel at Concordia Seminary on April 20, 2011: