Friday, January 12, 2007

Can Wine Echo?

Homiletics texts and classes, at least in my seminary days, focused on finding resonances between the assigned text for the day and narratives or stories in the world that could connect the Word of Scripture to the World of the congregation. One kind of preaching that takes this assignment (too) literally then structures a sermon making use of lots of present day stories or illustrations to attempt to make the Scripture relevant to contemporary life.

A different kind of resonance can also be preached, though, that being a resonance within and between Scripture passages themselves. This kind of preaching probably looks more to the post-liberal/neo-orthodox approach, arguing that Scripture is an idiom or language to be learned, so that the when we read, we are being read by, read into, a cultural linguistic model, we are being Scripturized.

So, for example, if I were preaching on John 2 water to wine in the first form, I might tell some contemporary about a wedding and how a new thing was done at the wedding that was meaningful to all involved. Or we might talk about the function of wine and servants or something in contemporary culture (I'm over simplifying here).

But in the 2nd approach, we might read the water to wine miracle in reference to previous events in the life of Israel (Elijah and Elisha? Rivers to blood? Purity codes?) or forthcoming events in the life of Christ (Christ turning his own blood into a new wine that is "the best wine saved for last", given to the wedding guests, the marriage feast of the lamb).

Of course, these kinds of references are not yet preaching- either can function dead word or direct address depending on how the sermon is constructed. Nevertheless, I believe the 2nd approach might in the end develop greater biblical literacy among preachers and laity than the first. It may even serve as growth in a certain kind of holiness- being able to read Scripture and imagine, through the Holy Spirit, how the Word plays within the Word in a living conversation that is the gospel made manifest through a particular economy.

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