We follow the historic lectionary as found in the 1996 Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary on page 202 and 203. It’s a 1-year lectionary that determines not only our readings in the Divine Service, but also the themes for each Sunday, and usually, the sermon texts. It’s pretty much the same lectionary as the one provided in The Lutheran Hymnal from 1941, except that we now have Old Testament lessons appointed for each week. It’s also pretty much the same lectionary as used by the reformers and church fathers for well over a thousand years. Our pastor preaches the same sermon at both congregations each week, and it’s usually recorded at the second service.
Among confessional Lutherans, the art of sermon construction and preaching is considered to be very important. Bad preaching is what gives the verb “to preach” a bad connotation. Confessional Lutheran preaching, on the other hand, is all about delivering two chief messages, properly distinguished and applied, through the biblical text chosen for the given week of the year. Unlike many other kinds of preaching, confessional Lutheran preaching is not about telling the hearer what to do, what he should have done, or revving him up to do something (or avoid doing something) in the future. Certainly, such messages may be a part of the sermon, but the main point is that despite our awful record of failed righteousness, God has done all that was needed in Jesus Christ to provide for all of us the forgiveness of all our sins, a renewed life on Earth, and eternal life in heaven. That’s what Lutheran preaching is all about.
These sermons are recorded with a digital recorder, which records in WAV format. Formerly, they were recorded with a pocket voice recorder that encoded into the WMA format. Where there are missing sermons, it’s probably because the pastor forgot the recorder at home, or the batteries went dead at just the wrong time.
The WAV files are then encoded into both the ubiquitous MP3 format and the excellent quality Ogg Opus format. The Opus format provides astounding quality with amazing compression of a broad range of audio recordings, and is being supported by many web browsers and audio applications. Older sermons used the Ogg Speex encoding instead, which was designed for the human voice, and both compression and quality are excellent. This is all done with Free software.
The encoded files are then uploaded from my computer into a specialized folder structure on the web server. It consists of a single folder containing a collection of sub-folders with very specific names. Each sub-folder contains the sermon files for a single recorded service. The name of the sub-folder is the date on which the recording was made. The date is in the format YYYYMMDD, zero-padded if necessary (like 20070901).
A somewhat larger, free PHP script was obtained that could generate a Podcast feed. When the web server receives a request at its address, this script generates a specially-formatted listing of the audio files currently available. The listing can then be used by a program similar to a web browser, that periodically updates an internal listing of all the audio files currently available, and automatically notifies the computer user when new audio files are available. It can also automatically download the new audio files, so that they are ready to play or transfer to a portable media player whenever the computer user would like. The link and data provided by the PHP script is called a “Podcast,” named for the famous iPod device.
I modified the PHP podcast script to accomodate the folder structure we are using to store our audio files on the web server. With everything configured, the only thing needed to podcast and publish a new sermon is to upload the MP3 and Ogg Speex files into an appropriately named folder.
You can see the podcast feed data by clicking on either of the Podcast links in the left column of this web site. You can also download a copy of the PHP script that generates the podcast. Open the PHP file in a text editor, and you will see a little bit of documentation and some settings toward the top of the file. Adjust as necessary, and upload it to the folder just above the folder structure on your web server. Your mileage may vary. Questions are welcome.