Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ramblings on Kiwi Made Preaching Forum - 5

First a joke (From Reader's Digest) to set the mood (and NO, it wasn't told in the seminar... )

During his children's sermon, our assistant pastor asked the kids, "What is gray, has a bushy tail, and gathers nuts in the fall?"

One five-year-old raised his hand. "I know the answer should be Jesus," he began, "but it sounds like a squirrel to me."

One workshop I attended and enjoyed was by Mark Strom, Principal of Laidlaw College (formerly Bible College of New Zealand). The title: "Must every sermon from the Bible find its way back to Jesus?"

Bottom line, Mark says YES. Some reasons(I may be paraphrasing ...):

1. Because what is distinctive about Christianity is Jesus!
2. From the perspective of the NT writers ... "To whom else would we go!!"
3. Good news is Jesus and Jesus alone!
4. Fundamental good news is the "resurrection of Jesus"
5. The whole OT is screaming out for a resolution - and that resolution is Jesus!

He is an impressive speaker as he has notes but doesn't seem to need them and he can just go on and on and on and I still want more.

The big problem he feels is that many preachers do not see how the big story of Jesus fits into the whole of the biblical narrative. .. hence he thinks many sermons fall really short because they kn the end kind of try to append Jesus to the end of a sermon and it seems very strained and doe not fit. Hmmm...

He gave an example of OT Christocentric preaching by telling the story of Saul and David ... bottom line he compares the kings to the ultimate King .. Jesus and see how they fall short. Interesting. ... He seems to indicate that he cannot accept any other theme as significant / the main point.

Hebrews is an example of how OT is re-examined from the lenses and template of Jesus (I agree this is clear!)

For him, any attribute of God in the Psalms can be best seen in Jesus.

Food for thought. In many ways I agree with him as I do see (Thanks to Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart) how OT has many levels of story and that Israel and God is always in the "background context" even if it is not overtly mentioned.

But still, now as I work on a sermon (Psalm 29) I am trying to see how these insights ought to work out and help me be even more focused in my sermon content and delivery.

But one other comment that he made (probably off the cuff) struck me and I had to ask him afterwards what he meant. He said "NZ Christianity is pragmatic, superstitious and has very little understanding of the Gospel!" (BTW he is an "Ozzie" ) and has been at Laidlaw for I think less than 3 years ... around the same time as me :-)

I think it is not just NZ Christianity's problem but in many countries as well ...


  1. I always believe in the big picture preaching. This is where I find narrative theology helpful. While I believe we should be Christocentric in our preaching, I think it is very artificial to end every sermon with a closure. This reminds me of many television episodes where the story ends in 45 minutes. I believe we are preaching the metanarrative and hence has time for all things.

    I am most keen to know his answer to "NZ Christianity is pragmatic, superstitious and has very little understanding of the Gospel!"

    Hope your eyes are better

  2. Alex

    I think I lean heavily towards your thinking. I guess I have to listen to examples of Mark's preaching to better understand his view. As I look back I think I mention Jesus in every sermon I preach.It's pretty natural for me to do so as I believe the core of Christianity is Jesus and everything significant revolves around Jesus.

    But whether every passage / sermon should point to Jesus is something I am unconvinced as yet. For example yesterday I preached a mothers day sermon which I entitled "Moses had two mothers". It was a comparison of Moses Egyptian mother and his Hebrew mother ( a lot of inductive and I hope sanctified and biblical imagination at work!). It was about how both were good mothers who wanted the best for their children but how Jochebed had something extra that made her "better" - spiritual dimension.
    In the end I had to tie in the spiritual dimension and resources to Jesus Christ! God's grace and power at work within us to help us.

    I am not sure if this would be deemed "appending" Jesus to the sermon but it felt natural to me. But I did not tie in Jochebed's life of faith to Christ as to me that would have been eisegesis. A lot to ponder for me as I do my post sermon reflection...

    Oh, on Mark Strom's comment, he gave me an example. Christians understanding of how he should deal with illness.... I am paraphrasing here in my own words ... Christians locked into concepts that illness can be cured via special prayers, actions etc ... a gospel where what matters more is what we do and the control we have rather than God's sovereign will.

    Basic ally a lot of claiming and healing, prosperity gospel leanings etc where there is little room for suffering, discipleship and the cross etc.