BORING BIBLE POST WARNING: What follows is interesting to less than one percent of people who go to church, which in turn means that a fraction of a percent of people on the planet will care about what I’m talking about here. Who am I kidding? This is a post written by me… to me. I will attempt to make it interesting, but should you read any further than this just know that you have been forewarned.
Recently, I gave a message on the covenant God made with Abraham as we see it take shape in Genesis 12 and 15. This sermon was part of a teaching series our church is currently working through called “WORD.” Over the span of fifteen weeks, we are hoping to convey the overarching storyline of the Bible – to give people the big picture of the Bible – and not just some piecemeal stories from here and there.
And now I need to make a confession…
I don’t like sermons.
This is a problem, because I give a lot of them.
Now when I say “I don’t like sermons,” I don’t mean it in the way that your average organized religion basher might. To the extent that I am able to prayerfully, accurately, and compellingly communicate the ways God has spoken to us through his word, I love it. In fact, there are few things that I enjoy more than teaching out of the scriptures.
And still, I find preaching a sermon to be inherently frustrating. This frustration stems not from having a difficult time coming up with things to say, but rather for the opposite reason. I always have more that I would like to say than time permits. To those who patiently endure having to sit under my teaching on a regular basis, this perhaps comes as something of a surprise. Like most preachers, I can have a tendency to “go long.” So the idea that I might have more to say is not only unfathomable, it’s horrific.
The problem is that I don’t think I’ve done a topic justice unless I’ve said everything that there is to say about that subject. The following quote says it well…
Every good sermon is heresy when judged for all the important truths left untreated.
Fred Craddock, found in Eugene Lowry, The Homiletical Plot, p. xiv
Preaching on God’s covenant with Abraham was no exception. My approach was to take the text at more or less face value and teach it all as straight forward narrative. This means that I made attempts to describe what the events surrounding God’s calling and covenanting with Abr(ah)am would have looked like for someone who had a front row seat of the whole affair. I generally think that is probably the best approach, as I’m guessing other preachers would agree.
However, these stories aren’t quite so cut and dry. There is much more going on in these texts. I don’t pretend to think for even a moment that I am fully aware of all the “much more” going on or could explain it even if I did. But I’m going to take a crack at trying to share the more that I do understand.
I can already tell that this post (not unlike my sermons) is going to stretch out some. And so to spare you from a narcoleptic episode, I’m going to break things up a bit. Here’s what we’ll consider in the next post or two:
1) who wrote the material we find in Genesis.
2) when and where was it written
3) which will lead us to consider the way these stories function as they are received by various (reading/listening) communities throughout history.
I know you can’t wait.