Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ is such a bizarre "twilight zone" endeavor. Imagine how ludicrous it is for some mere human laden with cultural blind spots, physical frailties, and mental misperceptions --- all mixed together with a good dose of blinding arrogance --- to try to communicate the essential nature of the Creator of all to other similarly constituted humans. Then, to top it all off, such a person dares to declare that we can know what this Creator desires for us and from us, that we can truly know the "mind" of God! Absolutely preposterous!
Yet, this is exactly the claim of the Christian faith, that through preaching the Word of God is communicated, comprehended, apprehended, and inculcated by mere human beings. Indeed, we are simply "poor fork-legged animals," as Frederick Buechner describes us (who, in good preacher fashion, is borrowing a phrase from someone else, in this case Shakespeare). It is beyond incredible that the great Creator of all should condescend to such a faulty and fleshly means to be understood by such faulty and fleshly creatures such as ourselves. No wonder the apostle Paul calls this medium "foolishness," for that is how it appears to anyone who gives it much thought.
Yet again, many of us preachers know that there is so much more than mere mental processes and chemical reactions happening when we preach. This is on my mind right now because of my experience this last week preparing and delivering the sermon for September 25 at little Calvin Sinclair Church. All week I wrestled with the text, Exodus 17:1-7. I was intrigued with the "Is the Lord among us?" issue in the desert travails of the Israelites, but for some reason I wasn't coming up with anything very interesting (at least, not to me) for making a sermon out of this. Though I squeezed out a passable few decent points, I went to sleep Saturday night feeling very dissatisfied.
In my dreams, I continued to work on this text and trying to come up with a better sermon. By the time I woke up, I had a whole new approach with much more relevant illustrations than when I went to sleep. Then, as I delivered the sermon Sunday morning, there were a number of people who seemed very intent as they listened. Afterwards, many of these people commented on how my sermon sections derived from my "dream work" (which they did not know about) were particularly relevant to what is happening in their lives at this time.
So, how are we to understand all this? It is apparent that there is so much more going on during a sermon than the cleverness of the preacher or the relevant use of word studies. Truly, the Holy Spirit is active, and no amount of work with the original languages, cultural and geographic settings, literary analysis, sitz im leben, or weltanschauung speculation can ever eliminate the need for God's direct intervention to make meaningful the words of one "poor fork-legged animal" trying to convey the eternal truths of the Divine to the mundane lives of other "poor fork-legged animals."
Quite literally, thank God!
Now, where is my Greek verb parsing guide? (Sorry, Dr. Storey, my Greek isn't as good as it once was.)