To what extent is there an expectation that a preacher's sermon is original work?
Surely the expectation is that the preacher proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ. But is there also an expectation that the words of the proclamation are original words composed by the person speaking them?
If sermons are borrowed from another source, should that fact necessarily be announced in the Sunday bulletin or even from the pulpit itself? ("Today's sermon comes from Great Lutheran Sermons Volume 32").
What about particular ideas, concepts, or quotes? Should the sermon follow the term paper rubric, such that every idea, concept or quote that comes from another source is cited? How should those citations be shared in the delivery of the sermon? Surely it could be cumbersome to speak and to hear a sermon that constantly references theologians or writers, for example. Truly, how many of the ideas and concepts we share in our sermons are really original, anyway?
Most Lutheran congregations do very little that can be considered original on Sunday mornings. Our liturgy and its prayers have been handed down to us over the centuries. The readings are chosen according to a lectionary cycle and church year calendar that too has been shaped by a tradition that is much larger than the local congregation. The hymns and anthems? Almost always they are not original, but composed by others and given to us to use for the glory of God.
So should preaching necessarily be different than these other elements of our Sunday service? I don't think it makes great pastoral sense to simply pull sermons from http://www.easysermons.com (not a real website) and deliver those week after week on Sunday mornings. But if the point is to proclaim the Good News – and not to display a particular preacher's creativity, intellect, or faith – what does it matter the source of the sermon? And if the sermon is not original, or if it is full of borrowed ideas, what is the best way for the preacher to give credit to these sources without clogging the delivery with endless citations and references?
I write all of my sermons, and have never borrowed sermon text from any outside source. However, are my sermons "original work"? Not entirely. I borrow quotes and ideas all the time. I will reference a source in my preaching if I read from a direct quote (ex, "as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his The Cost of Discipleship …"). Otherwise, when I incorporate substantive ideas or interpretation of a particular text from a commentator, I incorporate those ideas into my sermon generally without making reference to the source in my delivery. However, when posting sermons online, increasingly I insert a footnote and a link, if available, so that readers might know the source of the particular idea.
At our evening prayer services during Advent and Lent, however, we do not preach original sermons but instead read excerpts from great pastors, theologians, and writers. We will read from Luther, Bonhoeffer, the Church Fathers, contemporary theologians, etc.. Many of the readings come from the wonderful little prayer book For All The Saints, which includes as part of its order of prayer readings from theologians and writers from across the centuries. These readings, and their authors, source, and a brief historical context, are always announced prior to the reading.