Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Warp speed exegesis

Last week I attending the Preaching Practicum at Wilshire Baptist Church. The featured speaker was Dr. Anna Carter Florence, the Peter Marshall Associate Professor of Preaching at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA. I was not familiar with Dr. Carter Florence other than having viewed one or two of her video clips at Workingpreacher.org. She was excellent.

One thing she taught us was what she called "Warp Speed Exegesis."  Her point wasn't how to fast-forward through exegesis. Instead, the purpose was to help the preacher dig into the text on his or her own without turning too quickly to commentaries. The practice was simple. Take the biblical text and work through it verse by verse paying particular attention to the verbs. Who is doing what? And what are they doing? What isn't happening? One also pays particular attention to where things might have gone differently in the text. What could have happened instead? 

We did this with a dificult passage, the rape of Tamar, found in 2 Samuel 13:1-22. I was surprised at how helpful this method proved to be. Part of the effectiveness was no doubt in part because we did this as a group, which was also one of the main points of the practicum. Doing this activity with lay people can add a whole other dimension to sermon preparation. The other reason this method was effective was because it help move you through the passage helping you pick up the key moments when something could have gone differently - Amnon could have confessed his troubles to a better chosen friend than Jonadab (a crafty man). David could have taken off his sin-induced blinders and kept from sending his daughter into a dangerous situation. The servants could have spoken up (though at a high cost). Before the exercise I thought to myself, how would I ever preach this passage. After the exercise, I had at least five legitimate ways I could preach this text.

Since then, I've tried this method on a few passages - Ps. 46, 1 Thess 3:6-13, and Rev 5:11-14. The results have not been as dramatic as they were for the purely narrative text in 2 Samuel. One reason might be that this works best for narratives. Another reason could easily be that I was working on my own and not with a group. Nevertheless, I have benefited from employing this method in each case and I'm grateful for Dr. Carter Florence's time with us.

Below is one of her videos from WorkingPreacher.org. In it she talks about how to involve the church in this process. Enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Saint Augustine couldn't do it, but can anyone else explain what kind of fruit Adam and Eve ate in the story? After 6000+ years I think we're all due an explanation. No guesses, opinions, or beliefs, please--just the facts that we know from the story. But first, do an Internet search: First Scandal.