Much hard labour have I spent in manipulating topics, ruminating upon points of doctrine, making skeletons out of verses and then burying every bone of them in the catacombs of oblivion....I believe that almost every week I make enough outlines of sermons, if I felt at liberty to preach them, to last me for a month, but I no more dare to use them than an honest mariner would run to shore a cargo of contraband goods.
What is the right text? How do you know it? We know it by the signs of a friend. When a verse gives your mind a hearty grip, from which you cannot release yourself, you will need no further direction as to your proper theme. Like the fish, you nibble at many baits, but when the hook has fairly pierced you, you will wander no more.In my wrestling over the last couple of weeks or so I am glad to report that a hook has pierced me - I have been caught by a theme. The Friendship of God. I was struck in reading through John's gospel how open Jesus' gift of friendship is, and I came across the comment by Luther: 'John's theme is not the calling of the apostles into office; it is their congenial association with Christ.' How could a sermon series help us experience Jesus Christ as friend?
So, the hearty grip of this theme thrusts me into texts such as John 1: 35-42, and other texts about Jesus' gift of conversation in prayer, his desire for loyal companions, his sharing of vulnerability, his choice of us and his relationship of love with us. I am so grateful for this hearty grip. There is much hard work ahead but I had a run through of the first sermon today....with a surprising interjection. I will report on that shortly!