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miriam bier – texts in conversation

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about going along to an Anglican church this year is knowing that in every service, every week, we’ll hear from the breadth of Scripture before anyone even gets up to preach. There’s always a Psalm, an Old Testament reading, an epistle, and then the capstone, a Gospel reading. Every single week, witness to Christ from the full reach of Scripture is read out in church.

Well that’s not entirely true. As Andrea MacDougall pointed out in an earlier post, the lectionary is censored, with all the “bad” bits of the Bible painted out. But the idea is there, all the same. The scope and the spectrum of Scripture are canvassed widely, every single Sunday.

For the preacher, then, it seems like there is plenty of biblical fodder from which to choose. Now, in the church I currently go to, the sermons seem to focus primarily on the Gospel readings – and rightly so, I suspect. Sometimes the collection of texts drawn upon seem to have no obvious connection, and not even a less-than obvious connection, in cases. It’s much more straightforward, and wiser perhaps to go with the Gospel presentation!

But it gets me to thinking: what might it look like to preach, not just one text, but a number of texts in conversation? To see how the Old Testament reading feeds in to the New, or how the Gospel might address the sentiments of a Psalm, or some other such conversation?

Too hard, you might say; it’s difficult enough squeezing a message out of single biblical passage! But I reckon there are conversations to be had, lying latent in the biblical text, that might be well worth exploring with our congregations.

Sometimes the connections might seem obvious. Coming up to Christmas, at least, there are all sorts of prophetic sources that are drawn upon to make sense of this coming of Jesus. Sources, it’s fair to say, that did not have Jesus in mind to start with. Just think of Isaiah 9:6-7. And when Paul draws on the Scriptures of his tradition, our Old Testament, there’s an evident conversation going on within his recontextualisation.

But what other biblical conversations might be worth having? This Bible we preach speaks with more than one tone and timbre. What might it look like to purposefully draw on more than one of those voices and observe the way they interrelate?

What do you think?

One Comment

  1. Patricia says:

    This is challenging and refreshing. I’m looking forward to trying it when I next preach…I’ve just done my research for our evangelicalism essay and, as a consequence, rather disillusioned with the typical evangelical way of doing things. I’m also thinking about how I’m going to apply my new learning in a way that is relevant to a non academic audience.

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