The text of Scripture has a funny way of being much more resilient than we’d like it to be. It has riches to yield… but not cheaply. Usually it yields them only after a long and painful struggle.
My impression of most preachers is that we really don’t appreciate this process. As a result, we make one of two mistakes:
1) We settle for a cheap simplicity on the near side of the complexity of Scripture. Instead of really grappling with the text, we revert back to using cheap platitudes, “Christainese”, old stories, and worn-out doctrinal formulations. As a result, we fail to have a fresh, compelling “word” to speak.
2) We press into the complexity but stall out in the middle of it. Instead of persevering through the arduous struggle with a resilient text, we make a home in the complexity. This results in preaching that is convoluted, sloppy, and over-“explainy”. Moreover, we fail to actually PREACH, for – sorry to burst the bubble here for anyone – mere exposition is not proclamation. It is one thing to be able to explain how – for example – the U.S. Government works. It is an entirely different thing to announce that the Commander in Chief has entered the room.
There is a third way, of course; and it is where good preaching tends to be found:
3) We press into and through the complexity and come out on the far side, in a crystalline and hard-fought clarity and simplicity that evokes awe, wonder, repentance, gratitude, and obedience in those who listen. Jacob, we are told, “wrestled with the man of God” till daybreak, famously declaring, “I will not let you go until you bless me!” His hip was wrenched (he was marked by the struggle) but a blessing he did get.
Most of us give up the struggle too early, if we even enter it at all. It is part of why “the word of the Lord” tends to be “rare” in many parts of Christendom. WE’RE LAZY. And the result is that our preaching is cheap garbage.
Don’t settle for lazy preaching, preachers. Enter the struggle with that resilient text that seems to have a mind of its own. Wrestle with God in it. Insist on not leaving it till he blesses you. Don’t let it go until you’ve wrenched a fresh word from it. Chances are, you’ll be marked by the struggle (it will cost you do this). But you and the congregation alike will be MUCH BETTER OFF.
So get to it.
Peace to you…