This Lent I have been reading a book of Lenten sermons in my devotions. It is a collection of 18 sermons on the Passion History of our Lord. Actually, it’s just the first half. There must be a second volume. The sermons are by George Stöckhardt (1842–1913), a Lutheran pastor and professor who is often considered the greatest exegete in American Lutheranism. These sermons, much like so many of Stöckhardt’s sermons, are magnificent. I’m just amazed at the depth of insight and careful consideration of each word of the text. With 18 sermons on just half of the Passion History, each sermon is focused on just a sliver of the history, each just considers one aspect of the account. The one I’m reading right now is on Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. [The image below is from the cover of the book.]
Let me share with you part of the introduction to this series. This is a very rough translation (the book is in German and I don’t have a dictionary with me). [The image to the right is from the cover of the book.]
"The Passion History makes the best Passion sermon. The entire Gospel is a preaching of the
crucified Christ, the Word of Atonement. In particular, the history of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, as the Holy Spirit has given it to the holy Evangelists, the great Word of Atonement, is the core and substance of the gospel. And they are great, serious, powerful and at the same time highly comforting words, which are reported in this history. These words are clear and concise and they impress themselves on the heart and conscience. Whoever sees in them the calling of the Holy Spirit to his eyes, his soul, receives and enjoys the fruit of the passion of Jesus. Because these words are so great, so rich and deep, we approach them with care and correctness when we aim to preach and interpret them. We will get the right benefit from this interpretation, when we pay close attention to each individual phrase of the holy evangelists, and search out their sense and content. So we want to slowly, step by step, follow in the way of suffering marked out for our Lord and Savior in the passion history.
And on each step of the way of suffering, at each section of the passion history we want to mainly observe the following eight points."
Then he continues to list these eight points he says are critical to all "Christian preaching, and therefore all passion-preaching." Such preaching must also be a preaching of
- comfort (for our life, suffering, and death)
Interspersed in this list he quotes several hymn stanzas, from some of the same hymns we sing today.
Reading these sermons have been terrifically helpful to me for my personal devotion this Lenten season. How about yours? What helps you the most to set the love of your Savior before your eyes and your heart during the Lenten season? If you wish, share your thoughts in the comments.