Monday, September 08, 2008

the excitement of preaching

One of the things I love about starting new teaching series (that's a plural, by the way, so read it accordingly...!) is the sense of wonder I get at discovering new things. I think this is probably a good thing. I think preachers should get excited about what they are learning so that they preach as those who are sharing new discoveries.

Of course, I'm not discovering things that I didn't know about or which are changing my core beliefs about God, the world and our place in both. Rather I am unearthing new links between familiar things, like seeing an old master painting from a new angle or with a fresh set of questions in mind.

I'm reminded of the statement that the great historian Christopher Hill makes at the beginning of his quite wonderful The World Turned Upside Down: 'history has to be rewritten in every generation, because although the past does not change, the present does; each generation asks new questions of the past, and finds new areas of sympathy as it relives different aspects of the experiences of his predecessors.'

I thinks that's true of every preaching series. We use our familiar text - the Bible - and our well-known beliefs and understandings of its message - variously known as our doctrines or theology. But each time we embark on a series, we ask a fresh set of questions, bring new experiences and seek to make new connections between different parts of the material and between the material and the audience. The result is that we see things in new ways and, for this preacher at least, make sometimes startling and exciting new patterns out of familiar words and images.

All this has me enthusiastically opening my commentaries and other resources and wrestling with the text of scripture with a smile on my face. It also helps when - as happened this past Sunday - people respond positively to the journey you've invited them to join you on.

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