Help in the Vicinity

Some passages are sitting up and shouting “preach me! preach me!”  Others are slightly less helpful.  That is, the text is, of course, God-breathed and useful.  But perhaps the author didn’t include any illustrations or pictorial language in the passage, or there is neither story in the passage or in the immediate context . . . it just reads like a logical progression of content that needs something to make it sing from the pulpit.  Epistles tend to have sections like this.

Be careful!  In this situation you are going to be tempted to preach less than biblically.  You’ll be tempted to use the text as a springboard and bounce off it to preach your own message, using your own illustrations, etc.  The text could become a very minor bit-part player making little more than a cameo appearance in your message.  I’m assuming you’ve studied the passage and understand it, but I want to encourage you to search a little more in the vicinity of the text.  It may yet yield a more thoroughgoing biblical sermon.

1. What about the author?  Does his situation, life experience, background and story shine any light on the passage?  If it does, then you have the hint of a narrative now . . . every life is a narrative, and this text might just tap into that in such a way that the message can be preached in an engaging manner with description and empathy and flow.

2. What about the situation?  Bible writers didn’t write for a hobby.  They were neither drunk nor wasteful.  If they put it on papyrus, then it was for a purpose.  What was going on with the recipients of the writing that prompted the author to write what he did.  Again, you now are poking around in the bushes of a story, and stories will engage, allow description, create tension, offer resolution, empathy and intrigue.  People are interested in people (that’s how many TV shows work).

I’ll add two more tomorrow…

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One thought on “Help in the Vicinity

  1. Thanks Peter. I love the picture you painted, like a detective “poking around in the bushes” for the clues that give them the ability to make sense of the evidence. We need to be looking carefully at the text and the context to look for little clues as to what drove the authors of scripture to include what they did.

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