This week I have been getting my head and heart in gear to prepare messages from the book of Ruth. I’ve pondered issues of contextual unawareness, perceived irrelevance and the challenges of application. I am not saying any of this should come before issues of study and interpretation, but before the messages can be prepared, these issues have to be faced. I’d like to raise one more issue:
What is my strategy for preaching through the book?I have four sessions to preach through Ruth. Slam dunk, decision made, right? Four weeks, four chapters. Voila! Perhaps. But I’m not a fan of instant obvious decisions. I want to think through it first.
1. Preaching a narrative means preaching multiple scenes, not multiple chapters. It may be that there are four scenes in four chapters, but I need to check that first. Going with chapter breaks is lazy and sometimes naive.
2. How do I keep the unity in mind? Ruth wasn’t written to be read over four sittings in four weeks. It was written to be heard in one sweep. I have to ponder that. Should I preach the whole narrative in one go? I could do that week 1, but then what? I could take three weeks to revisit the text and zero in on specific aspects of the story. Or I could review the whole narrative at the end. Or I could let it build week by week, as if people don’t know what is coming.
3. And what about other options given by four weeks? Maybe I need to take a week on the opening verses and engage the complexity of divine providence, suffering and life as experienced by most people. Perhaps there are a couple of chapters that could flow together. Perhaps the ending that points forward to David is worthy of a wrap-up message on its own. So many options.
Simply splitting it into four roughly equal chunks with a big number at the start does seem a bit too hasty at this point. I need to spend some more time in the text of Ruth, and be prayerfully considering what would be most helpful to our congregation.