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Author: Subject: Listening with Fathers and Mothers
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[*] posted on 1-9-2016 at 09:58 PM
Listening with Fathers and Mothers

Listening with Fathers and Mothers

Iíve enjoyed translating and reflecting on addresses and sermons delivered by Pastors Herman and later Theodore Schmidt at the 75th, 100th and 125th anniversaries at St. Paulís in Serbin. They encourage us to remember how sermon writing was different a century ago as well as to wonder what parishioners expected from a sermon.

Todayís preachers often use a technique called narrative preaching in which a story is used to capture listener interest as the sermon begins. Sometimes the story is too long or reveals too many secrets of the pastorís family on too many occasions. The sermons from Serbin usually plunged right into the text, quoted many Bible passages as well as favorite hymn texts. Considered trite today, the sermon often concluded with a hymn, sometimes with the recitation of all the verses. However, given that the laity may have been unacquainted with any literature other than the Bible and hymnody, it was probably appropriate to use these references to draw applications to parishionerís lives.

The Serbin anniversary sermons also make frequent reference to the importance of holding on to faith until death. Death was a more frequent visitor in Serbin families, and the cemetery adjacent to the church building in which regular worshippers could wander after worship on Sundays called its reality to mind. Itís hard to convince todayís younger generations to buy health insurance because they think they may never get sick, much less die. Members in Serbin understood some of lifeís realities better than they are understood today.

Also, the separation between religious denominations was more definitive in Serbinís early years because language and doctrinal issues tended to enforce it. The Schmidt pastors regularly emphasize the purity of the Word which alone would remain when things like language disappeared. Luther and Kilian were frequently referred to as those who had embraced this purity. Intermarriage and being transplanted to other parts of the U.S. have diminished the strength of this emphasis today, and descendants of the early Wends now living in more ecumenical families and environments throughout the U.S. may regard some of the language used in the early sermons as quaint.

Nevertheless, itís worth listening to the words once again and listening with the ears of fathers and mothers who first heard and cherished such sermons. Their trust that in the pastorís use of biblical language and hymnody there was a treasure to be kept is a precious insight. Their reality that life is not without its limits is instructive. And their notion that in the midst of many contemporary words, some of it just chatter, there is a Word worth hearing that is the truth to which faithful Christians still cling.

David Zersen, President Emeritus
Concordia University Texas
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