From Text to Sermon: Confessions of a Parish Pastor

Ronald Olson

Article Type: Article

Publication Date: 10/1/1993

Issue: Biblical Interpretation for Christian Ministry (Vol. 13, No 4, Fall, 1993)

I confess that I am still convinced that God’s word works, that it does what it says. People have come to faith in conversation with that working word, and they continue to do so. But I am afraid that I have also preached with a rather simple-minded notion about the working of God’s word and the meaning of biblical texts. More particularly, I featured the exegetical moves that took me from text to sermon as directed in large measure toward the question, “What does this text mean?” I crafted sermons to convey meaning to those who heard them. I connected the meaningfulness of Scripture directly to the working of God’s word. And I confess, without giving it that much thought, I saw biblical interpretation and preaching just this way, and prepared sermons accordingly. But it is precisely these, perhaps too poorly examined, connections between texts and meanings and God’s working word that have been challenged by many segments of recent literary-critical scholarship. While I have not been persuaded to change my mind completely on all this, I most certainly have a better appreciation today for the decided narrowness of my earlier understanding. Looking back at some of my old three-point sermons, I recognize that in my earlier enthusiasm for found meanings I occasionally tried too hard to make texts mean a certain something.

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