For us ordinary folks, "exegesis" is a technique of interpreting Scripture by getting "behind the text" (understanding the historical background and context in which the passage is written), "in the text" (examining the literary form of the passage itself), and "in front of the text" (applying the passage to our context today).
Dion also makes a strong case for using a lectionary, and since I started doing so, I found out the following three things:
- I was no longer faced with the problem of "what can I preach on this week?"
- I had to wrestle with the texts to find out what God was saying to me through these selected texts.
- I no longer needed to find particular texts suited to being bludgeoned into my chosen theme. Rather, it became more important to identify the theme from the texts.
Naturally, Dion outlines his case for using a lectionary far more eloquently in his exegesis notes than I do -
Allow me to make a case for the lectionary as the first port of call in the search for texts from which to preach Sunday by Sunday. There is no substitute for systematic, ordered preaching which has a long term purpose and structure to it, ensuring that the congregation becomes well informed, is exposed to the main themes of Christian belief and Christian life and, over a period of time, is guided through all the main sections of the Scriptures.
Moreover, preaching the lectionary will ensure that you are willing to wrestle with the Biblical text, rather than just choosing a few well-known passages to support your own theme. Remember that the task of the preacher or teacher is to discover and communicate God’s will and desire to God’s people, not simply to present his or her own ideas or ‘hobby horse’.
A well-coordinated preaching and teaching team can only accomplish this high calling through the use of a well-constructed Lectionary! Working to a lectionary relieves the preacher of the anxiety of deciding what to preach on. It also ensures that what is preached is indeed an exposition of the Scriptures rather than an exposition of the preacher’s favourite opinions, vaguely supported by some craftily selected Biblical texts!
Be careful of trying to find ‘proof texts’ to make a point. Rather, study the scriptures to learn everything you can about God’s character and will, and our relationship as God’s creation to this wonderful God.
The full text of Dion's exegesis notes can be downloaded here. They are well worth reading, and outline the basic principles more succinctly than most textbooks do.
The Methodist Church of Southern Africa publishes each year's lectionary on its website, as well as in the Yearbook. However, their version runs to nine pages, and since I have developed an aversion to killing trees as a result of the message delivered during my trial service, I decided to put my rudimentary Microsoft Word skills to the test and see if I could reduce it to fewer pages.
I managed to get it down to two pages, which is about the limit to which one can take it down without having to resort to using a magnifying glass. If you have one of those fancy photocopiers that does everything short of making you coffee in the morning, you may be able to even print it double-sided on a single page - handy for the jacket pocket or to slot into the back of your Bible.
You can download the 2-page version of the 2008 lectionary here.