More Help in the Vicinity

Yesterday we were thinking about texts that don’t sit up and easily offer engaging and interesting sermon spice.  Perhaps they lack illustrative content, or engaging narratival features.  The temptation is to relegate the text to a small role in the making of the sermon and break out a couple of humdinger illustrations that you know will stir the listeners.  Before you resort to such tactics, I’m encouraging you to poke around in the neighbourhood of the text some more.

Yesterday we thought about the situation of the author and the recipients.  Both point to narrative potential, even in the midst of an epistle.  Here are a couple more leads to follow before you move on from the desk and get too creative in your sermon preparation:

3. What about a quotation?  It’s hard to get through a paragraph in the New Testament without there being a quote or allusion or wording from the Old Testament.  A bit of digging here might shine light on the text and offer more angles for the preaching of the text.  Of course, good exegesis should have unearthed the quotes, but perhaps another look as a preacher will yield some potential colour for your sermon.  Maybe Old Testament story, maybe something in the cross-over from back then to the day of the author.

4. What about the rest of the book?  Seems strange to say it, but preachers can sometimes fall into the same trap many commentators seem to meet – atomistic Bible reading.  That is, you are preaching from verses 5-11, so you only really focus on verses 5-11 (and in some cases, one verse at a time!)  It is part of the flow of the whole, so look around again and see how your section works in the whole of the book.  This might yield an angle from which to preach the text with greater engagement and interest.

There is always a danger that our passion to preach well can move us on from understanding the passage to the max.  Don’t be in too much of a rush, but instead be sure to diligently dive into every detail in the text, and in the vicinity.

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