Chapter 4

Recreating the Dynamics of the Text

Shape your sermon around what the text is trying to do, not just what it's trying to say.

I once, as part of a series, preached Psalm 131. The psalm is so short I can reprint it here in its entirety:

My heart is not proud, LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.

I labored with that text for almost 50 minutes. I had a lot to say. I schematized the verses. I trotted out Hebrew words and phrases, and cross-referenced those with other biblical verses. I did an extended digression on the theology of children. I found intricate literary patterns, and expounded on each at length. I told funny or poignant stories to illustrate all my points. I was quite pleased with the whole thing.

Later that week, I received a handwritten note in the mail. It was from a visitor named Dave. Dave had been in town on business, and though he hadn't been in church for years, ...

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