Preaching from the right Question…

Noah’s ArkI’m preaching a sermon this weekend at St Philip’s on Genesis chapters 3-11.

Without any planning it turned out that our Old Testament lecture today was on exactly the same passage…
…Cut and Paste the notes?

Well, I can’t really. At the 9:30am Service probably 70% of the people attending are not Christian, and at least 1/2 have virtually no background knowledge of Christianity at all.
(The reason for this is that we have a group of couples who are currently attending because they are planning to get married in the Church. One of the conditions of using the Church for their wedding is that they become part of the Church community for a few weeks. I really enjoy getting to know these people. They have no Church background or hang-ups.)

So, I’m preaching on Genesis 3-11, which covers the defining event in the history of humanity and a larger chronological time period than the rest of World/Biblical history combined.
… And I’ve got 20mins with people who don’t know a thing about it…

I think that I need to stick as much as possible to simply retelling the story. I can’t possibly have the whole section read out for the Bible reading; the people who are listening won’t have Bibles open; and they won’t know any of the stories. (other than Noah’s ark – they might know that there was a Noah, and that he had an Ark)

I want to start with the questions that I think motivate the original telling of the story:
I have an image in my head of a group of people gathered around Moses to here the story of how they came to be.

  • How did we come to be the people of Yahweh?
  • How did we come to be in this land?
  • How is it that Yahweh claims to be the only God?
  • There are many other nations who each have many other gods. Why do not all people worship Yahweh?
  • This world is a place of slavery, battle and privation. It is a hard place. If there are no other Gods, why did Yahweh make this world this way? Is he a hard God? What is his purpose for us in bringing us to this place?
  • It is very easy to over-read these dense texts from our earliest history. But I don’t think we can read them well without starting with the questions that the story is seeking to answer. I’m throwing out as many questions as I can, but ultimately the one question is:
    How did our world become what it is?

    ‘Our world’ means different things when you are an ancient Israelite or a post-modern Australian. Some of their questions mean nothing to us, others strike a note of resonance – we have a similar discontent with how things are, and a desire to know how they came to be.
    But whether our questions are similar or not we should be careful not to simply ask our questions of the story in the place of those Israelite questions.

    We are drawn into the story by seeing that the answer God gave to these people, which was an answer for them, and which addresses their questions, is a story about the whole world and all of its people.
    We are drawn in by implication rather than identification.

    How do I demonstrate sensitivity to this in my preaching?
    I’ve got a few ideas but no idea how to keep it simple.
    And without simplicity, it will almost certainly be a waste of time.

    For your interest, I think the implication of the story for us is summed up by Paul in this:

    “Now the Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and foretold the good news to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed in you.” (Gal 3:8 HCSB)

    Showing why that is the implication…
    now, that’s the tricky part.

    Ideas?

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    2 thoughts on “Preaching from the right Question…

    1. I went ok I think. God was merciful in putting things together so that I had heard a lecture on the passage at College last week. It saved me heaps of preparation time.
      I've posted the outline of the talk – not because I think it's extra-specially good but for feedback and sharing ideas.
      dan

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