Sunday, December 20, 2009

Primary Considerations: Listening, the All-Important Foundation

And now the end has come. So listen to my piece of advice: exegesis, exegesis, and yet more exegesis! Keep to the Word, to the scripture that has been given to us.
-Karl Barth
(Just before Karl Barth was exiled from Germany in 1935)

“For what we preach is not ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as servants for Jesus' sake.”

2nd Corinthians 4:5

We don't preach ourselves, but the Word--the Living Word Christ (John 1) and the scriptural Word. The temptation is to build on a foundation other than the Word. We all have personal stories or great illustrations at the forefront of our minds, good and important though they are, they aren't the foundation of a scriptural message. It's perhaps tautology but the foundation of a scriptural message is: scripture and to that which it points, namely Christ.

In this section we'll look at what it means to do faithful "exegesis". Exegesis means: a critical explanation of a text. The preacher's first task is to be a student of the Word, drawing the meaning out. This requires an act of listening. Before you can draw out what is being communicated in the text, you must listen to the text.

I'm writing a little handbook on preaching for some of my adult leaders. This is the preface, so to speak. More coming.


There are many approaches to texts. Shuffling through pages, quickly hunting for summary statements and bold words--this is a form of reading that belongs to university libraries. A skeptical reading, looking between the words for cracks in arguments or faults in the story line--this is a form of reading suitable for debate or argumentation. Then we've all read several pages only to find that the words were merely white noise, nothing was retained.

Kierkegaard talks about the reading of scripture as an act of love, like reading a love letter. This is the only way to approach the reading of scripture. Listening to the scripture, within its context, is an act of submission to it--and by extension it is an act of submission to God. In listening to scripture you're setting yourself below the text. You don't offer anything to add, you are under it's tutelage. This is where the preacher must start, you must be under the scripture's tutelage. You must be under the Spirit's tutelage as he points you to the living Word Christ through the scriptural Word. Listening is the appropriate metaphor for the way a preacher reads scripture; before the preacher proclaims he must listen.

1 comment:

mrteague said...

Amen. Good stuff, Maynard :)