I mentioned yesterday after worship that because I’d spent a good portion of last week trying to adjust to a new medication, I didn’t actually get to the meat of the sermon writing process until early Sunday morning. That rarely happens, but when it does, I don’t like it. I don’t like it because I don’t feel as prepared with the text, at least not as prepared as I think a preacher should be. Still, I used the time I had at my disposal, and I kept close to a more simpler pace of just observing the scene in the text and then being what I am as a Christian man—someone who is excited to know Christ, a witness who wants to tell you what I’ve seen and heard, a friend who wants very much to introduce you to Jesus. Working from this perspective, the task of preaching is really rather eventual. It has a way of coming alive. It has a way of becoming otherworldly and beautiful, and it has the potential for causing anyone to feel a little like Andrew running to tell his brother Peter, or Philip running to tell Nathaniel, “I have found the Messiah!”
But this reminds me of something else, too, and a guy by the name of O.C. Edwards poked at it when he wrote: “When you come right down to it, the idea that the most exciting message the world has ever heard can be presented in a way that makes it sound old hat and dull is mind boggling. There are probably only two circumstances under which that could happen. First, we are uninteresting, or second, we find the gospel uninteresting. In either case, something ought to be done about it.”
Truth be told, he’s talking about those who are called to preach. Nevertheless, I think his words still resonate for all Christians in a practical way, especially as the Church finds herself more and more immersed in a culture of religiosity where the Gospel is just one thing among many things, and often considered as not all that important in comparison. To say it another way, Christians are not immune to portraying to the world that we like the Gospel, but we don’t necessarily love it. When this is true, it affects the way we communicate Christ to others.
Maybe another, more practical way to think about this would be to consider something that Richard Hays, a New Testament professor at Duke Divinity School, once said about one of his former professors, Alvin Kernan:
“When I was an undergraduate at Yale University, students flocked to Alvin Kernan’s lecture courses on Shakespeare… Even though it was the late 1960s and we were living in an atmosphere charged with political suspicion and protest, none of this overtly impinged on Kernan’s lectures. Kernan was not a flashy lecturer. What, then, was the draw? He loved the texts.”
In other words, Kernan was an expert on Shakespeare, but being an expert didn’t make him a productive communicator of Shakespeare. Hays sheds a little more light:
“His teaching method, as I remember it, was simply to engage in reflective close readings… delineating their rich texture of image and metaphor and opening up their complex themes – moral, philosophical, and religious. Often, Kernan would devote a significant part of his lecture time to reading the text aloud, not in a highly dramatic manner, but with sensitivity to the texts’ rhythms and semantic nuances. I would often sit in class thinking, “Oh, I hadn’t heard that in the text before.” And I would leave the class pondering the problems that Shakespeare addressed: love, betrayal, fidelity, sacrifice, death, and hope.”
Quite simply, Kernan was in love with and devoted to the texts of Shakespeare. When he wasn’t teaching Shakespeare, he was reading Shakespeare and enjoying it for himself, and this directly affected his telling of the story to others.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28). I’m sure I’ve shared with you before that the word Jesus uses in the Greek for “keep” is one that relays a defense of something considered to be invaluable and most precious. Considering this, while at the same time knowing that by faith, a Christian is in the deepest of loves with the One who spoke the words, we learn something very important.
And here’s where I’m going to suggest that you follow Kernan’s example and immerse yourself in the study of something you love…
Consider joining the Sunday morning adult Bible study because regular study of the Word of God is crucial!
Now, don’t stop reading here. Keep going.
Through the study of God’s Word, not only is the Christian fed from the divine wellspring that gives true wisdom for salvation, but there’s another product of the effort that many might overlook, and it’s that it provides a depth for a multitude of discussions. And when one is truly prepared, one is much more confident and convincing. Again, what I mean is that there’s a genuine difference between someone who knows about the Ark of the Covenant and someone who has spent time in the Word admiring its golden dimensions. There’s a difference between someone who knows about the Israelites being pursued by Pharaoh and someone who, through deliberate study of God’s Word, has had the opportunity to be led in a way that sees the fear in the Israelites’ eyes and feels the quaking ground—the rocks trembling and the dust rising—as Pharaoh’s army charges toward them in pursuit. There’s a difference between knowing the story of the feeding of the five thousand and being so aware of the implications of the event that one can begin to hear the rumbling stomachs of the hungry crowd and be concerned. It’s one thing to say so nonchalantly, “Yeah, Jesus died on the cross,” but it’s something altogether different to study Saint Paul’s words regarding the depth of the event, and by this, to be led to envision the blackened clouds of darkness and to feel the stern breezes casing the scene at Golgotha. I could go on and on, telling you how Easter is just one thing that happens every year for so many Christians, and yet for those immersed in the study of God’s Word, it is an emotionally jostling celebration that sees the absolute unexpected become reality—Sin and Death have been done away with forever—and it’s a reality that applies to us right now!
Like I said, I could go on and on about this stuff, but I suppose I’ve already written way more than most people might be willing to read. With that, I pray that you’ll take these words to heart and that you’ll think about joining the adult study on Sunday. My words are given here in love as they are given from someone who, like Andrew and Philip, has met the Messiah and truly wants for you to meet Him, too.