Thursday, July 08, 2010

Preacher's Choice

There are two words that can strike fear and anxiety into my heart. Two words that appear on our preaching rota in church in the wee box for the appointed passage: 'Preacher's Choice.'

You see, normally, we follow what has been described as 'SCEOTS' - Systematic Continuous Exposition of the Scriptures. So, we preach through a Bible book (or section of a book), then take another and start again. Since I've been in Dundonald we have preached through the whole of 1 Corinthians, Titus, Daniel, Ephesians, 1 Thessalonians, as well as sections of Mark, and a lot of Psalms. It's easy to know the next passage - wherever we stopped last week, then we start there next week.

The hard work has been done by the person preparing the series in dividing the section into preachable passages. The text is provided, so the hard work all week is done on the text - what does it mean, what is God saying, and how do we apply it?

But every so often, we're not preaching from the series. Perhaps there are more Sundays than sections in the three-month period of the preaching schedule. Perhaps they have been built in to provide a break from a lengthy series. Perhaps it's a holiday time. And those two scary words appear - Preacher's Choice.

So, as the week begins, the pressure is on to first of all pick the passage, before working on what the passage means. And that's where the problem begins. With over 31,000 verses arranged in 1189 chapters, how do you pick a passage? It's the ultimate in indecision and multiple choice!

How to get the right passage for this particular Sunday, with this particular congregation? To preach from Old Testament or New? A familiar passage or a relatively unknown passage? A previously preached passage or a completely new one? It's a good job that it isn't ultimately in our hands - God is in control, and through prayer and meditation, we can discern what we should be preaching.

So, having picked the passage, the task is just beginning, and the harder work of exegesis and application lies before me. Here goes...

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