This book has grown out of a ministry that has spanned nearly four decades. It is built around the conviction that theology does matter for theology has to do with words from God, words spoken back to God and words spoken to the world. Luther once remarked something to the effect that the cross alone is our theology. Before Luther there was the Apostle Paul who came to the Corinthians with "the word of the cross" (1 Cor. 1:18) determined to know nothing among them but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (see 1 Cor. 2:2). In essays, sermons, and homiletical studies this volume seeks to continue that apostolic aim.
A significant portion of this book is devoted to sermons. Sermons, of course, are written to be preached rather than published. None the less, there is value in reading sermons. Such reading is a way of meditating on God's Word. This reading might also prompt other preachers to explore an overlooked dimension of a text for their proclamation. Sermons are never generic; they always have a context. Many of these sermons were preached in Kramer Chapel on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne where the author has served as a professor since 2000. These sermons are preaching for future preachers, equipping them in the way of Luther's oratio, meditatio, and tentatio for the burdens and joys of the pastoral office. There are occasional sermons from conferences, funerals, and ordinary congregations. Over the years, Prof. Pless has preached at over thirty ordinations or installations of pastors. A sampling of these sermons are included. They bear the imprint of the bond that exist between professor and student. More importantly they promote Jesus Christ as the Lord who calls men into the ministry and enlivens and sustains them there with His Gospel for the good of His flock.
The remainder of the book is devoted to essays in pastoral theology covering the range of the author's interest from Hermann Sasse to vocation, liturgical practice to the Small Catechism, challenges to confessional Lutheranism in North America to the office of the ministry. Many of these essays originated at conferences both in the USA and abroad. The contents of this volume flow from the pulpit, desk, and podium of a man who seeks not novelty or creativity but faithfulness to the word of the cross.