Questions from the Pulpit.
Preaching is translation. Throughout the week I spend anywhere from ten to twenty hours translating a particular text — not just from the original language but from the original context. The latter is the more difficult of the two types. At best we preachers have about a two thousand year gap to account for every Sunday. Therefore we do not only need to understand the biblical cultural context but also our contemporary one. And a good preacher makes sense of both.
Every week I labor to make sense of the two contexts. Not only so but it is my responsibility to bridge the gap and highlight the pervasive truth to which the Word speaks. In order to do this I lean on two principles every time I preach — (1) the Word is not just what God has said but what God is saying and (2) humor covers over a multitude of contexts.
Knowing that the Word currently speaks, places the power in the proper place. The relevance (and sense) of a sermon is not found in just understanding context but also in speaking the word which is true in every context. The alive Word moves and breathes into hearts and connects the dots by the sheer grace of God. Preaching must be first a spiritual and second a mechanical art form. Keeping the alive Word central, ensure this order.
Secondly humor covers over a multitude of contexts. Humor is familiar to all of us (well most of us anyway). It is not by happenstance that the things which were funny to Jesus are still funny to us today (see Matt 7:3-5). Therefore humor has been an essential tool in my preaching as it bridges the divide of time. Humor is often seen as a distraction from a sermon’s main objective and therefore is misplaced in the pulpit. However, when used appropriately, good humor highlights sinful absurdities, humbles both preacher and listener, and displays the divergence between God and man.
Every week I silently wonder if my sermon made sense. Through the power of God’s living Word and the universal qualities of humor, I believe each sermon has a chance.