Good preaching: Mapping reality

While preparing a sermon it struck me that preaching is like map reading.


Sometimes people read the Bible as if it is a road map, a series of lines which connect up to take us in a particular direction; our job is to get on the motorways and stay there till we reach our destination.


Preaching is like an Ordinance Survey map where, in addition to the roads, contours and other information are given. In place of the flat page road map we start to gain an understanding of perspective, of contrasts, of nuances. In preaching the text the preacher is helping alert her hearers to these shapes in the text so we might perceive God more clearly.


The task of the preacher is to point to the features on the map so that the church might walk the terrain; picking out the viewpoints and the way marks to help navigation, appreciating the beauty and depth of the character of God, noticing the wastelands and map reading through the marshlands. Ultimately the task of the preacher is not sell maps but to encourage the church on the hike towards the heavenly city.


Of course some preaching can be so interested in the archaeological digs on route or so disorientated by the depth of the forests that the congregation need sat-nav to get out. Good preaching demonstrates that the world is not flat but is round with mountains and valleys, oceans and deserts, which display the glory of God.


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