The Joseph Sittler Archives — The Expanding Scope of Grace
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The Anguish of Preaching

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This republication of The Anguish of Preaching is made possible by The Joseph Sittler Archives Committee, a collaborative ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

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Foreword to The Anguish of Preaching
The original directives for the Dr. and Mrs. Jeremiah Zimmerman Lectureship specify that the lecturer address himself The Anguish of Preaching by Joseph Sittlerto some aspect of “effective preaching.” The latitude with which this counsel has been interpreted over the years is itself a testimony to the point the following chapters attempt to make: that the act of preaching is so ecologically imbedded in the total reflection and witness of the community that the sermon as a particular act cannot be separated out for very useful discussion.

There is, to be sure, an act and a product called the sermon. As such it is a fusion of exegesis and choices involving aspect, accent, specific intention. And the sermon is also a prose piece which imposes demands upon the literate writer. About each of these activities of the mind that goes into the sermon many helpful and acute things can be said.

But they have been said, over and over again. Earlier lecturers in this series have spoken of the difficulty, the joy, the required craftsmanship in the art of preaching. So sensible, strong, clear, and true is much of that material that to the sum of it I have not felt it necessary to add anything at all. The effort that seemed to me possibly useful was to reflect upon several immediate facts and issues troubling the preacher right now, and out of such reflection to set down what I hope may be both steadying to the battered seminarian in these frenetic days and suggestive to him of how rich and various are the intersections of scholarship, the arts, the shifts in language which are formative of the moment in which he stands up to preach.

To choose to speak in that way is to acknowledge that one shall very likely make no contribution to theological scholarship. That fact must be swallowed, for what it means to preach out of the swirling change in basic patterns of thought and resolution that characterize our time is, I am convinced, something no one knows very much about. The role of the sermon in the transmission of tradition cannot be certainly specified; all one can do is face facts, access the vitality of this or that possibility, and probe for a way to preach that shall be as appropriate as he can make it to his moment, his place, his people, his own maturing toward conviction and clarity.

The section that deals with the form of the church building is offered as the fourth chapter of this book because what we are seeing and learning about life in our time in architectural efforts is concrete data for the explication of the preaching task. The architect is not a preacher; but he, too, struggles to find forms effective for the announcement of a tradition — momentum; and the components of his effort have their counterpart in the conceptual and verbal struggle of the preacher.

It is a happy duty to record here my thanks to the President and Faculty of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for the occasion to prepare these lectures and to recall with pleasure the courtesy with which they were received.

Joseph Sittler
Chicago, September, 1966




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The Anguish of Preaching by Joseph Sittler

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