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preaching to the heart – shelley west


I remember the classes A LONG time ago now at primary school. Friday morning just before morning tea was Bible in Schools time. Bible in School time meant extra stickers for me; I knew the answers, I knew the stories, I knew the memory verses, I knew all the right things to do and say – thanks mum and dad for the head start there.

Years later as an adult I was ‘asked’ to prepare for end of year assembly at my old primary school. My mother was teaching Bible in Schools there and had volun-told me and another friend for the job.

As we sat down to think and plan it was plain to see that:

  1. a) Keeping 200 odd 5-10 year olds from rioting AND
  2. b) Making sure they hear something about the goodness of God would be quite a task.

My friend and I struggled with moving past the easier ‘being a good person-by not………’ and the “God tells us to……..” towards what we wanted to say which was something entirely different. What we wanted to say is something we adults struggle to grasp. The idea of holy-amazing, omni-everything God loving so much that he desired to know and love us, warts and all.

For a while we pondered-independent and together-keen to make it not only about knowing, but for a hearts response; in the end we went with balloon animals.

As we blew up coloured plastic we told a story of a Creator who spoke words of life-words that created beautiful things like them and the wonders of this world and looked on it adoringly. That this great Creator moved his home (literally) to make sure we knew of his love and care. It all got a bit garbled in the end as my balloon animal didn’t quite live up to the picture on the instruction sheet- but saved entirely as a smallish child desired it anyway, imperfections and all.

I hoped we had managed to say – and that little hearts and teacher ears had heard something of God and his Kingdom – in that 15 odd minutes that resonated with hearts and minds.

One who had created them exactly how he wanted, who moved from far away to reveal himself and ferociously and jealously loves them.

There are many things we can say from our lecterns and pulpits – clever observations of verses and pulling together of grand themes. Then there is all the decision of style and the practicalities of delivery. Among all this pre-work, among our praying, bible and commentary reading I believe we need to be looking for ways to framework this picture of this God. The One who in his vast amazingness reaches to us and all his creation, who is at work now to restore it – gave the gift of his own Son so its consummation may come to pass and is Christ who will one day come again.

Sermons then point away from just the transfer of knowledge, application becomes more than instructional “do’s and don’ts” and encourage reflection on all that he is, letting worship in all its forms and functions come as response to grace given so remarkably.

How we can all go about this I’m not even going to begin to tell you. I’m still new-ish to this preaching thing – and please hear me – what I’m advocating is not a reduction of faith down to “God loves you” and ignoring the rest of Scripture and their command to transformation and maturity. I’m merely suggesting holding this picture of God as a framework from which we start.

Recently I heard a well-crafted sermon that explained how God’s wrath against sin shows his loving care of us. So I know it’s possible to preach without shying away from what might be deemed the “harder” parts of our faith.

In the final part of ‘The Divine Comedy’ Dante has seen all the terror of hell, of purgatory and now reaches heaven and there he has a wonderful vision of the Triune God, and it is there as he reflects on the everythingness of God he realises that his will is now melded to the “love that moves the sun and stars.” As he realises God’s glory and all the actions that His love have made possible Dante can’t help but respond utterly with all that he has.

Let’s keep striving with our words to paint the best picture we can of the everythingness of God, the One that satisfies our deepest need who we can’t help but love and serve in return.


One Comment

  1. Dr. iris. G. R. Paul. says:

    Sheely West — Yes in my Tribal set up I too “strive for words to paint —– everythingness of God” . God Bless u as u strive is my prayer. iris.

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