Monday, September 14, 2009

Soaking in God's Metanarrative

A friend and I were discussing sermons on Saturday night. I said I considered a "C" sermon (as in A, B, C, D, F) to be one that acknowledges the content of a given biblical text, interprets it with a sound and humble hermeneutic and applies the interpretation to its audience's situation. I added that I had become grateful for "C" sermons since I have become accustomed to hearing ones that fail to meet this basic rubric of preaching competence.

She agreed and mentioned some preachers she likes and acknowledged that they tended to meet this basic standard. Then she added that some preachers, like John Wesley, seemed to be able to go off topic or ramble yet deliver an invigorating and enlightening sermon. I thought for a second and then asked whether or not this might be due to a deep internalization of the gospel metanarrative; she concurred.

I deduced this because of my exposure to two sermon givers in particular, one sermon producing community in general, and my personal devotional experience. The two sermon givers are John Calvin and N.T. Wright. Both have a grand sense of God's story from Genesis to Revelation, and the writings of each are littered with rhetorical fluorishes to their respective metanarrative structures (Calvin: "In the psalmist's praise our Lord's election is most surely demonstrated, in that so depraved a man might know the grace of our sovereign Lord..." or Wright: "What Paul has in view here is the now-and-not-yet of God's future rushing into our present of Christ's past: new creation, new humanity..."--I made both of these up, but they both sound right). The sermon producing community is the International House of Prayer, where Mike Bickle and team intentionally labor to reshape the metanarratives of intercessors and preachers-in-training to emphasize prayer, judgment, eschatology, and the church/believer as bride to Jesus ("He's our husband, beloved! And we're on our knees, with him, in intimacy--but he's the one who will judge the nations at the end of the age! The bridegroom is the judge!").

Which narrative, then? Its up to us to judge which grand story makes the best sense of our canon. I'm partial to some combination of Wright and Bickle (weird, right?), where Yahweh has been relating to his people covenantally since Abraham, has anointed and inaugurated Jesus of Nazareth as his king, and we wait in eager, prayerful, missional expectation of his return when he will judge the nations and make every wrong thing right--finally "in [Abram] all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3).

I just want to soak in that. Let that awesome story--of God's faithfulness, his power, his mercy, his justice, his out-and-out greatness--inform my reading of Scripture, my prayers, the hope of my calling, my praxis, my mission. Getting God's big picture infuses me with excitement. It contextualizes the work of the Spirit which I know experientially--whereas before I knew his power, now I'm enthralled by what he intends to do with it. And hopefully, when it comes time for me to take the stage, I will accomplish some level of exegetical competence seasoned with fluorishes of metanarratival grandeur, infused all by holy life indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

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