Transforming History Into Theology (part 9 of what preachers do to the Bible to create sermons)


This series of posts contains a list of some of the things preachers do to the Bible to create sermons. We perform all kinds of operations on the Bible so that it functions for the Church. One important thing preachers do is  turn history into theology. In our hands, narrative scenes and dialogue from the Old or New Testament go through a metamorphosis. History is transformed into theology, what God is saying to the Church or how God wants the Church to respond to Him.

A couple of weeks ago I reread sections of Buttrick’s, Homiletic, to review his idea of preaching in the mode of immediacy. In the book he says, “What the minister plots, then, is not a story, but a sequence of responses to a story as the story progresses” (p. 362). The sequence of responses to a narrative is another way of thinking through how the story is functioning for the Church. We do not simply retell the plot, but show how the plot conveys theology.

This is one of the most difficult parts of studying the Bible for sermons. Not much has been written to help us move from Text to theology without sacrificing the integrity of the Text. In other words, not all our timeless principles are actually taught in Scripture.

In Luke 14:15-24 Jesus teaches a parable to help us make sure we’ve really accepted God’s gracious invitation to experience LifePlus. This all began with someone exclaiming with dangerous optimism, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” The parable adds a dose of sobering realism to such dangerous optimism. The sermon focuses on the theology in this dialogue: that many who have first heard the gospel will not experience eternal life. It’s possible that many of our congregants said “yes” to God once in the past, but are not following Him now (see all the excuses in vv. 18-20, “I have bought a field….I have bought…oxen….I have married…”).

Before Sunday, if your preaching portion contains a narrative, see if your sermon shows evidence of transforming the caterpillar of history into the butterfly of theology.

Preach well for the sake of God’s reputation.


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