Nathan asked about preaching longer narratives, such as the narratives of Daniel. Last week I preached Daniel chapter 2 and the book of Esther (10 chapters!), so I’ve been thinking about this recently. Here are my thoughts, I’d love to hear anything you would add:
Even if it is long, preach a literary unit. Longer narratives can stretch through many verses and multiple scenes. Unless the scenes are really sub-plots that can stand on their own, I would suggest trying to preach the whole narrative. While this may create some challenges, it is still better to deal with an entire narrative than risk misunderstanding and misapplying a part-narrative.
Tell the whole story, but perhaps read selectively. In the case of the Daniel 2 message, the leader of the service had a major chunk of the passage read before I got up to preach. In the case of Esther, I read certain paragraphs and verses as I told the story. While we want to honor the text and certainly encourage people to read it through later, the weakness in extended reading is actually our reading rather than the text itself.
The challenge is actually the same as for any passage. The challenge we face in preaching a longer narrative is, in one respect, no different than any other passage. Which details will receive in-depth attention, and which elements or sections can be summarized to maintain flow and unity? A longer narrative calls on our skill in big picture exegesis and compelling story-telling, but in many ways the process remains the same – study the passage, determine the main idea and purpose, define purpose and main idea for the sermon and shape it strategically, etc.