Approaching the text

Approaching the text

Particularly in the Reformed traditions the sermon relates to a text from the Bible. Lectionaries typically set out selections of texts from the Bible. In this blog we talk about the selections from the Gospels.

When we approach a Biblical text (the Gospels included) we need to understand that the text is delivered to us through at least four perspectives.

Perspective 1 (Jesus and the people who talked to him and with himWe do not, and cannot, know exactly what Jesus said, nor can we know what the people who engaged with him said. That is because neither Jesus nor his interlocutors wrote anything down. So, when we read "Jesus said;" we are reading what somebody else said he said.

Perspective 2 (an author is saying what he understands Jesus to have said)   This is second-hand knowledge. So, if John (or other writers) report Jesus as having said this or that, he or she has got that information from others who may, or may not, have been eyewitnesses, and who may even have kept notes. These writers have particular ways of writing and have particular audiences in mind. What is for sure is that they had no idea that people two thousand years in the future would be reading their accounts. There is a lot of information available on the Gospel writers but an easy way in is though Wikipedia. That source, however, carries no guarantee of truth -- so read carefully and widely. Here are links to the Wikipedia entries on each of the four evangelists: Matthew Mark Luke John

Perspective 3 (The compilers of the lectionary)  These folk provide us with a cluster of readings for each day of the year. Mostly, people consult it for Sundays. Each selection includes something from the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament), something from the letters written by various followers of Jesus, and a reading from one of the Gospels. This blog is limited to text the lectionary draws from the Gospels -- not because they are "better" but because we can't cover everything.

Perspective 4 (Other insights) This is about you and me and our universe and everything. We touch on "the sacred" in every aspect of our lives. We meet "God" in the small things and the large; in the things we know and the things that are mysterious. Life is the source of the big questions. It is not the only source, but it is a hugely important source.


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