People often say about my preaching “I don’t know how you do that.” To which I often reply “I don’t either!” Public speaking is daunting, and is a #1 common fear people have. Giving a public talk every single week of every single year isn’t easy. But, it’s also not complicated. This week I want to share with you my process of unpacking scripture in hopes that it can help you do the same. The truth is, I start on Monday so that I’m spending the whole week with the assigned passages. Engaging with a passage over time in this way really allows it to work on you, and that’s something that I encourage all of you to try!
Step 1: Start early. I am always sure to familiarize myself with the Sunday texts a week in advance. On Monday, just read them. Let them sink in. It can be remarkable how the stories “work on you” throughout the week. You start to digest them. The stories show up in life in surprising ways, and helps us connect the dots between our faith and our daily life.
Step 2: Share with others. Every Tuesday, I meet with colleagues to do a kind of “bible study” focused on preaching. We discuss the texts, and glean insights from one another. It’s important to read scripture in community. It keeps us accountable. Participating in a Bible study, even just with a partner to talk about the texts can be hugely insightful.
Step 3. Learn. I’m always reading scripture commentaries, listening to podcasts from scholars, or even turning to textbooks to continually learn about scripture. There are endless resources to mine. We run into trouble when we try to interpret scripture without really understanding the history and context of the text.
Step 4. Put it all together. By the weekend, I’ve hopefully learned something new about the passages, viewed them in a new way, or had some inspiring examples from life connect with them. The real trick is pulling it all together into insight or a main point. I’m always asking “what are these passages trying to say to us this week?” Sometimes boiling it all down to that main point comes early in the week; sometimes it literally shows up on Sunday morning. But because I’ve spent the whole week with the texts, I always have something to say by Sunday morning.
The good news is that you don’t need to be a preacher to dwell in scripture this way. Spending time with scripture during the week is a wonderful spiritual practice and can cultivate helpful insights and wisdom for life. It’s easy to look up what the assigned readings are for Sunday, and spending the whole week with them helps us to be open to hearing what God has to say to us, week in and week out.
I hope this helps. Blessings on your scripture reading!