Tuesday, 21 June 2011

More on the previous topic

Robert commented on the previous post:-

It would be interesting to ask around about this one (I'm not sure how I'd phrase it - I wouldn't have the nerve to go asking 'Why didn't you preach on the Bible?'), but I can see a potential problem. The traditional paths for a preacher are well trodden; if you've spent a couple of decades listening to sermons, you've probably got an outline in your head for many of the well-known passages, at least.
But what if you're not comfortable with the traditional reading of the passage? Either you dream up an original exegesis - not always easy - or you talk about something else.

21 June 2011 00:14

I agree it would be interesting to pose the question and that of course it would need to be done carefully but I think there is more to this topic than just asking the questions.

I think that Robert makes a good point about the well known passages and there is a degree here of familiarity breeding contempt. I suspect  that some of the problem is the almost slavish use in some places of the lectionary in one form or another. I am not sure the use of the lectionary is the good thing some people would have us believe, especially as it only covers a small amount of the Bible in total.

I would like most people expect preachers to speak on certain topics on certain Sundays – Easter on Easter Sunday, Pentecost on Pentecost Sunday, Trinity on Trinity Sunday and so on but I do think we could be a little more imaginative and less bound by the lectionary during the rest of the year. At one church we attended I did a series on the first line of a hymn taking one word each week and expounding on that word (The line was ‘Come,let us all unite and Sing’).

One of the things I do occasionally is try to look at a passage rom a totally different perspective and an example of this is that on Palm Sunday I looked at the events from the perspective of the donkey. During the weeks following Easter Sunday I took the theme ‘That was the week that was’ and looked at the week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday through the eyes of the characters involved – I examined how it must have felt for them and the roller coaster of emotions that they went through.

I received some very  positive comments on these services and people said they had never thought about the stories very much outside the traditional approach. At Christmas I may look at the story and again take a view from the stable – how did the animals feel, what might they have thought about it all? Perhaps we could take it from the shepherds viewpoint – imagine how they must have felt – how impressed they had been to go off and leave their sheep, after all it was not something they would do and yet we often write them off to some extent.

I believe it is possible to take a different approach and still get the gospel message across and the grounding and knowledge of exegesis can be helpful in ensuring that we stay of track.


Robert said...

I usually do the Christmas Day service at church, and go strictly by the text I'm reading from. So if it's Matthew we have the Magi and Herod, but no journey from Jerusalem and no stable; if it's Luke we have the journey but no magi or Herod. Where we have different versions of the story, I think it's important to take that seriously; each author had his own audience, and tailored the story to suit.

Rev Tony B said...

When I was at college, we were 'strongly advised' to use the lectionary, because it made us look at texts we might otherwise not approach, and it also got us away from 'the old favourites.' The danger with young or inexperienced preachers is that they have one sermon which adapts to various favourite texts! Since I left college (a long time ago!) I have used the lectionary less and less, especially in rural appointments, where it is much more important to take a sermon for a walk around the circuit for a few weeks. That must save me hours of preparation - more miles per sermon! ;) The lectionary might be useful for priming the pump, but I won't stick to it. It's like lots of other things - a useful tool for the preacher and the church.

The most important tool is the exegesis. It is most important that preachers acquire the skills to unpack a passage, and preach from that passage rather than importing their own views into it. Like Robert, if I'm dealing with specific narratives, I use what is there not what is elsewhere. Helping people to hear the different voices in the Bible is very important - I get so much good feedback from congregations when I do this, they love having it explained and applied to where they are now. Surely that is what preaching must be about?