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"Church reformer Martin Luther relied on new technology—in his case, the printing press—to circulate sermons in 16th-century Europe. Today, Lutheran ministers are sharing their interpretations of the Gospel on the Internet for the much larger and more far-flung audience of Christian Web surfers. Begun in 1997 at the German University of Gottingen, Gottinger Predigten, or Sermons from Gottingen, is an online version of the traditional homiletics journal that ministers have relied on for generations. Ulrich Nembach, professor of preaching at the university, founded the site for pastors looking for preaching ideas and lay people seeking devotional reading....

"Last year, in an effort to expand readership to the English-speaking world, Nembach enlisted the Rev. David Zersen, president emeritus of Concordia University in Austin [,Texas]. Zersen, in turn, assembled a team of three other pastors: the Rev. Walter Harms, retired from Bethany Lutheran Church; Samuel Zemwalt, senior pastor of St. Martin's Lutheran Church; and Luke Bouman, pastor of Peace Lutheran Church. The four men have been writing and submitting sermons to the site since last fall.... At the root of the effort is a desire to spread the Gospel. But the ministers said a variety of concerns motivated them to work on the site. Biblical illiteracy, uninspired sermons, and a clergy shortage have left the faithful floundering, they said....

" 'A sermon needs to have an anticipatory character about it, 'Zersen said. 'It needs to provide hope.'... The site provides sermons in four languages and has generated worldwide interest, according to Nembach. He said the site received about 450,000 requests for sermons from 70 countries in December. An archive contains hundreds of sermons listed according to the books of the Bible....

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April 5, 2004

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