Monday, October 18, 2021

Off-centre sparklets 1) An explanation

I have a theory about preaching in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This was a great time for massively influential preachers and transformative sermons.  In my 12 volume series 'Twenty Centuries of Great Preaching" eight of the volumes focus on this period. (I will not sidetrack onto issues raised by editor's choices!) Great biblical themes are sounded out with significant outcomes for church and culture.

During this time of largely 'Christianized' culture preachers could assume that the big biblical themes were well known.  This allowed them at times to focus on unusual Scripture verses or even a few words to weave a sermon.  I call such sermons on unusual Scriptures off-centre sparklets!   Off-centre because they surprise by novelty of choice and sparklets because they sometimes radiate truth in surprising ways. 

I still possess a number of old preaching books from this period many of which I have bought for small amounts over past years.  As I gradual dispose of these (!) I have noted some particular off-centre sparklets which perhaps are worth preserving.  They often show originality of thought and connection.  My preaching students will tell you that one of my mantras in class was: Authenticity not Originality.  I was always concerned about students attempting to produce something original to impress than to speak God's truth from the heart. But these earlier days of Christianized culture with full and knowledgeable congregations allowed scope for preachers to quote learnedly and to imagine vividly.  

For example, John Hutton (Westminster Chapel 1923-25) has a sermon collection 'Discerning the Times which contains several off-centre sparklets.  Like his sermon on Proverbs 14:4  AV 'where no oxen are the crib is clean'.  Incidentally, he never gives any Scripture references...ever.  Does he assume that listeners will take his word for it or (less likely) already be able to place it?   Anyway, onto the next post.

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