Thursday, September 20, 2007

Topical Storms

Well, I'm in the midst of a series entitled "The Decalogue," and it's shaping up to be a bit different than I'm used to preaching - it's topical.

Now, I should have realized that this was going to be a topical series when I set it up. After all, the Decalogue isn't exactly what we'd call "detailed." The Decalogue has prohibitions against idolatry and using the Lord's name in vain, bearing false witness and murder, coveting and stealing - but what are these things? How did they play out in the life of God's people in the Tanakh and the New Testament? As a Christian, how did Jesus interact with the covenant expectations laid out in the Decalogue and what does that mean for his disciples? This is what I'm dealing with.

So, to preach a sermon I need to start by interacting with the particular word of the Decalogue the sermon is dealing with. After all, folks nowadays don't understand what an idol is, or why a name was so important in the Ancient Near East, or how to keep a Sabbath rest. Without examining the various ideas that make up the Decalogue then the congregation won't be able to see the Decalogue working out in the story of the Bible or why it's important to their own lives.

Then I need to show how the particular words of the Decalogue work out in the story of the Bible, particularly in the Tanakh. This part is actually fun, and I've had a great time reading this book that deals with the way the story of the "Primary History" of Israel reveals how they broke each of the words of the Decalogue on the way to exile - it's really cool.

Finally I have to go and take a look at how Jesus (and Jesus' earliest disciples) interacted with the words of the Decalogue. Why do I want to do this? Well, largely because that's the thread which directly tracks to the people sitting in the pews (whether they actively know that or not is another question). If the sermons are going call people to be faithful disciples of Jesus (as sermons should) then I need to take folks back into the text along that thread.

After doing all that, I might have something to say. The worst part of this whole process is that I could easily add another twenty minutes to the sermon (at least) by exploring the Church's use (and mis-use) of the Decalogue throughout history - which is almost a necessity because that story is how we got our ideas of what the Decalogue means (apparently it means we set up idols to it in Federal Courthouses). Yet, I've done two sermons in this series so far and I'm already averaging six minutes longer than than my typical sermon. So, unless I have something I really need to throw out for the sermon, I just can't go there and hope to keep people's attention. Bummer.

Anyway, if you're interested in how all this works out click this link to subscribe to the podcast of this series.

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1. David Noel Freedman, The Nine Commandments: Uncovering a Hidden Pattern of Crime and Punishment in the Hebrew Bible (New York: Doubleday, 2000).

1 comment:

Melanie said...

I think I'm the only person who actually wouldn't mind if you went long inorder to make these last connections.

But then this is why I'm one of a few that like "lecture" style teaching sessions....