Biblically-Informed Preaching?

Often I will see that a church is promoting their “Bible-Based Preaching.” I assume they use the adjective to describe their sermons to differentiate themselves from other churches in which the sermons are not based on the Bible. I wonder who they have in mind?

sugar coated preachingSermons are by definition based on scripture, but that base may vary greatly in size. I have been in churches where the sermon feels more like a Bible study lesson. Members join the pastor in holding open the Bible to check the constant stream of references and have a pencil in hand to make notations for future study. I have also listened to wonderful sermons in which the Bible is barely mentioned. You might say that these sermons were “Biblically-Informed.,”

I do consider it important to have a link between my preaching and the Bible. This may vary each week from a close reading that amplifies the text to a historical dialogue in which I may even disagree with the reading. In either case, to be rooted in the Biblical text forces the preacher to engage with the history of our faith. This, ideally, leads to a deeper sermon as we explore the wisdom of the ages in relationship to current concerns and views. But to slavishly just repeat what is in the Bible reduces the value of the sermon, and the value of the faith. Christianity is a dynamic religion that has always changed with the times and it is our honor and responsibility to continue that living tradition.

This week I plan to be all Biblically-Based, but with a twist. The reading from the Hebrew scriptures this week comes from the book of Esther. This is the only time in the three year cycle of lectionary readings that we use this book. This book tells the story of Esther, a Jewish girl who becomes queen of Persia and thwarts a genocide of her people (though the Persians don’t make out as well). This story initiates the Jewish festival of Purim. So I am going to look at the whole book–it is only 10 chapters and examine what it may mean for us today. We’ll only read a few verses in church, so you might want to read the entire book before church on Sunday.

What do you think–can we claim Bible-Based preaching, do we want to?


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