Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Hebrews: sliced and diced for preaching

One of life’s regular ‘chores’ is coming up with sermon series, sometimes for a long while ahead and covering quite long periods. We are already looking at the run-up to Christmas, and I therefore had to come up with no less than twenty-two slots!
Allowing for a couple of ‘specials’, this reduced to twenty — but still a lot. It occurred to me, however, that it has been a long time since we looked at Hebrews. The question then was how to ‘slice and dice’ the letter into a coherent and sufficient number of sections — not too long and not too short — for preaching on Sunday evenings.
Meanwhile, I’ve begun reading G K Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission. This got me thinking about one way to divide up Hebrews, which resulted in the divisions and topics below.
The approach I’ve taken is to look at the letter as an exhortation to the people of the New Covenant to persevere in faith until we come to the true sanctuary of God and enter into our ‘heavenly’ rest by means of the effective sacrifice and priesthood of Jesus, the Son of God and Heir of Creation.
The proposed divisions and titles are as below. Hopefully they make clear the flow of the letter in this regard, and although some of the section divisions may seem unusual they seem to work quite well.
1-2:4               The Son of God and Heir of Creation
2:5-18             The Son and his brethren
3:1-19             The master of the house of rest
4:1-13             The goal of rest
4:14-5:14        A sympathetic priest
6:1-18             A promise to seize
6:19-7:28        A greater priesthood
8:1-13             The need for the new
9:1-14             The Old Covenant temple
9:15-23           The New Covenant blood
9:24-10:12      The New Covenant temple
10:13-25         The New Covenant life
10:26-39         Persevering in faith
11:1-16           Faith looking for fulfilment — from creation to Abraham
11:17-40         Faith waiting for us — from Abraham to the Exile
12:1-17           True sons and true heirs
12:18-29         Arriving at the true mountain
13:1-7             The true worship of God
13:8-16           The true priesthood of God
13:17-25         Summary — following your leaders

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  1. 20 sermons to prepare.....oh my goodness.

    You couldn't of picked better than Hebrews and the way you've "diced" it up looks great....

  2. Hi John,
    Just wanted to recommend a good resource for preaching through Hebrews - The Majestic Son, by Peter Adam, Principal of Ridley College, Melbourne.
    I am biassed given he was my lecturer, and I haven't read it from start to finish myself! But, I know Hebrews was instrumental in Peter's conversion, and it gives him a slightly different take on salvation from those of us who travelled the Romans Road. He also has a very strong emphasis on preaching, so you might find it useful for your purposes. It is designed for a lay audience, rather than ministers or academics, so it might need to be supplemented with something deeper.
    God bless and hope the series blesses both you and your congregation,
    Andrew Reid

  3. Thanks for that, Andrew, and in return, may I for blog readers commend Postcard from Palestine? (Assuming you're that Andrew Reid.)

  4. Thanks for this John; food for thought. You're certainly going to have to keep on your toes to get through!

    One question and some observations. How long has it taken to accustom your congregation to such lengthy series? We tend to do our series in shorter bursts typically 4-6 weeks. When we have "specials" as you call them or school holidays, it seems to press the "reset" button for most people. Also, I'd never met so many "casual" regulars as since we came to the Thames Valley - we've loads of long-term folk who appear about once per month; other places we've ministered, most people were around most weeks unless - and those who've moved into the area or returned to church in recent years fit that mould here, too. Any thoughts?

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