Yesterday I pondered the nature of the preaching event as representing the text being preached. Let’s push that further. My sermon this coming weekend needs to also represent the whole of the canon.
This doesn’t mean that I need to try to cram in the whole of the canon. I have observed some preachers who seem convinced their role is to quote as many different books as possible. I counted 25 out of 27 New Testament books in one sermon – that was quite a feat (or ordeal, depending on your perspective!)
There is value in showing how your passage fits in the whole, especially when earlier themes are feeding into the preaching passage, or when it offers a sense of anticipation that needs to be followed through. There is value in helping people see how the whole story of the Bible flows. (It is worth saying that there are also reasons to stay focused where you are – it is much easier to go on a wild safari in the back seat of a concordance than it is to clearly go below the surface in your specific passage.)
So this weekend, whether I refer to other passages or not, I need to remember that I am representing the whole canon.
This means the God of my message shouldn’t come across as if our only revelation were this specific passage. How sad to preach a passage and leave listeners with the sense that God is petty, or nasty, or soft, or distant, or whatever. This passage is one piece of a bigger whole that we represent as we preach.
This means that the whole scope of God’s plan shouldn’t come across as being simplistic – it’s all about me and my forgiveness, or it’s all about us and our salvation. Paul warned the church in Rome not to become arrogant through a simplistic salvation model.
We should neither automatically cross-reference, nor always stay only within our passage. We need wisdom to choose how overtly we engage the rest of the canon. But the fact remains, we represent the whole Bible as we preach a part of it.