Some Thoughts on Expository Preaching and Strange Texts
There are some texts that holler, “Preach me!” They are the epitomizing texts, encapsulating some great truth in one place. They are the famous, memorable texts, serving as the mainstay for God’s people through the ages. They are the inspiring texts, which we memorize and love to hear preached. Indeed, all of the Bible is equally inspired, but not all of it is equally inspiring. There are other texts which grin and say, “I dare you to preach me.” They are the shocking and sometimes embarrassing texts (the ones you hope your kids don’t ask too many questions about in family devotions). They are the complex, obscure, difficult texts. They are strange texts.
As a preacher, I would never gravitate towards my text for this next Lord’s Day, Hebrews 7:1-10. The text does not shout, “Preach me!” In fact, the text is an argument, a round about argument, dealing with tithing and loins. Try to find some hymns about those subjects! This round about argument is not even the coup de grace for the passage; it is the penultimate, not ultimate, argument. Although integral for the argument, it is still strange. If I were asked to preach a single sermon on some occasion I would not say, “Hot dog! Here’s my chance to preach Heb. 7:1-10.”
Nevertheless, I am committed to consecutive, expository preaching. This means that I don’t have a choice. I am a man under authority. What do I preach? Whatever comes next in the text is what I preach. Consecutive, expository preaching keeps preachers honest and balanced. It keeps us from plucking only one or two strings on our homiletic guitar. It forces us to preach the whole counsel of God, without prejudice. It presses us to think hard about hard texts. The fruit from these texts is often amazing, exceeding our expectation.
So I am thankful for consecutive, expository preaching, which says, without hesitation, “Preach the next text!”
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Some of the most depressing days of my life have been the result of an email. (My life was bliss before Al Gore invented the internet!). There is something wonderful about email communication and there is something insidious and harmful.
Consider the following evils:
1. It is very easy to write an email quickly and hit send without pondering the content or the effects. In the old days you had to pick up a phone and dial a number or write something by hand, put it an envelope, stick a stamp on it and wait for the mailman. Email can be a thoughtless form of communication, with nothing between you and stupidity except a send button.
2. Due to the massive volume of email we receive every day, email is not generally conducive to thoughtful reading. Spam. Spam. Spam. Silly joke. Spam. Update on Aunt Helen’s knee replacement. Spam. A weighty letter, dealing with grave issues, that require mind and heart. Pictures of the air show. Spam. Spam. Spam. It is almost like watching the news and going from sound bites and news clips of a cyclone that killed thousands to the latest news on Brittany Spears. We are desensitized by the mundane or trite and fail to feel the full weight of the important things.
3. In spite of all the little attempts at smiley faces and winks, tone is very hard to convey through email. I have sent replies to people that I have thought were absolutely brilliant for their terseness, dry humor, laced with sarcasm and sprinkled with irony, only to find the recipient was deeply offended. The phone is better. In person is better yet, for those serious weighty matters where tone and facial expression make up a part of human communication.
4. Email can be consuming. If you work around or on a computer all day, email can be a constant distraction with the email notification, even if your New Message Notification .wav file is a great line from Nacho Libre or Young Frankenstein. At least the mailman doesn’t show up until the afternoon and even then it takes effort to go to the box.
This is for me as much as anybody.
1. Do not castigate someone via email. Do it in person. You will at least have to think about what you are going to say and then put a little courage behind it.
2. Do not deal with weighty issues on email, if you can help it. We use email at our church for prayer requests. This is great, it gets people praying. But when it comes to a serious situation that needs discussion, discuss the old fashioned way, face to face or voice to voice.
3. When an email comes in of great importance, read it carefully. Print it up and read a hard copy. Make sure you know what it really says.
4. If you think you are funny, remember you may not be as funny as you think you are on email.
5. Turn off the email until certain times. Definitely turn it off during your devotions.