Opacity is worthy of our consideration. The contrast between being opaque and being a lens was suggested last week in conversation. That is, does the preacher act as a lens through which I see Christ, or as an opaque presenter through which I see little? It may be hard to quantify, but as listeners I think we know the difference.
When the opaque preacher preaches, we receive information and ideas, maybe even illustrations and anecdotes, perhaps applications, and even apparently effective delivery. Technically the sermon might tick all the standard boxes. Faithful to the text, relevant to the audience, clear in presentation. But obviously not clear in the sense we mean in this post. Because for all the good that’s there, the sermon event feels opaque.
So what is it that turns the opaque preaching into a lens through which the person of Christ is seen, through which the grace of God can shine into our lives? I suspect it isn’t primarily about technique, since great preparation and delivery skill can still lead to opaque messages. Perhaps it’s something along the lines of …
A sermon will act as a lens to the extent that the preacher relationally engages both God and the listeners as true personalities.
That could be better stated, but it will do for now (comment freely and offer better statements!)
1. If God is viewed as a distant, unknowable, cold deity who has left us with a set of data encoded in an anthology we call the Bible, then the preacher won’t engage Him. But if God is known personally, through the Word, through prayer, through a living and vital and covenantally loyal love relationship; and if God is an active participant in the life of the preacher; and if the preacher genuinely loves and likes God . . . then we may be onto something special for preaching.
2. If the listeners are viewed as an amorphous group of punters who have chosen to attend a presentation in which they (the seated ranks of unknowns) get to hear me (the preacher), then the preacher won’t engage them effectively. But if the people matter, and are cared for and prayed for and are important to the preacher (even if he is visiting), and if he seems to not only care enough to give tough medicine, but loves enough to make it palatable, and likes enough to smile . . . then we may be onto something special for preaching.
Opaque or lens?