Is This A Stinker Or What?

Ramesh Richard, who teaches preaching at Dallas Seminary, has authored a book entitled Preparing Expository Sermons that is quite good. He talks, as do most other books on preaching, about paying attention to the author's intent. Then he shares an example of a sermon he heard where this was totally ignored. It would be humorous if it was just facetious, but it is sad knowing that someone spent time preparing this and felt it was acceptable to preach.

Luke 19:29-40 - Jesus & The Donkey
1. You are like the donkey (29-30)
A. You are tied to someone other than the owner to whom you really belong.
B. You are still young - no one has sat on you.
2. Jesus commands you to be set free (30c)
A. He sets you free through his disciples. (31-32)
B. There will be objections when you are being freed to serve Christ. (33)
C. But he has need of you. (34)
3. Are you Christ's donkey? (35-40)
A. Is he riding you?
B. Are you bringing praise to him?

A couple of thoughts.

1. Someone probably worked hard, did some study, prayed about it, and came up with this. But effort alone does not make good preaching.
2. There are biblical principles reflected in this sermon. But principles separated from context is not good preaching.
3. People probably "got something" from this message. But the fact that someone was challenged does not make this good preaching.

Obviously these are factors that enter into a good sermon. But without being rooted in the intent of the author (and Author), the Bible becomes fodder for anyone's seemingly sanctified ideas - even mine. I try to continually ask myself "Is this what the author had in mind?" That at least provides me with a foundation to begin good preaching.

- - -

I've decided to suspend my series on Romans that I began in March until the fall. One reason for this decision is that I want our folks to be able to benefit from the sequential teaching of this book, and there is too much movement with people being on vacation. But perhaps the greatest motivation is that our small groups take varying degrees of time off for the summer, and this book is too important for them not to be exposed to discussing it. Are you (or is your pastor) doing anything different in the summer in terms of preaching?


Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

As a Lutheran preacher, I agree that the cited sermon outline stinks. It's allegorizing the text, which we should never do. It's using the text as a pretext.

My approach to preaching, however, is different than typical expositors. Every sermon should be biblical and faithful to the author's intented meaning.

But many Lutheran preachers (and others certainly) make a distinction between teaching and preaching. When I teach a Bible class, I do verse by verse exposition. Very important.

But when I preach, I am making a proclamation, an announcement. I preach the text, but I really preach the Gospel (Justification) through the text. And that includes preaching the law as preparation.

Milton Stanley said...

Stinker, indeed. It's so bad, in fact, that I linked to it at my blog. Peace.

bumble said...

But God could use our stinking stuff eventhough it shouldn't be an excuse to produce them...

I also observe that in personal devotion, we could be benefit from all sorts of angles...

bumble said...

Peter, one more thing.

Assume that you are preaching under the lectionary tradition, you are bound to hit this story once every year (or the Lukan angle once every three years).

So what are you going to do (assume that breaking away from the denominational/church's lectionary tradition is not an option)?

Wouldn't the minor angles be allowable if you stated clearly that it's a minor angle of the text? Wouldn't it be allowable if scripture elsewhere could be brought in to reinforce the point?

I think sometimes we exalt the historical/grammatical method of study Scripture a bit too much to the point that it becomes the ONLY method.

What do you think?

Peter Bogert said...


I understand the dilema, but in the final analysis the meaning of the text has to come from what it says, not what I think it means. It may be hard to come up with something unique each year, but I can't sacrifice the integrity of sound interpretive skills on the altar of what MIGHT end up simply being a lack of working hard to present the text in a different manner. I guess that I feel strongly enough about this that if I were in the "you have to preach this text each year" mode, and I couldn't come up with a legitimate alternative approach, I'd use the same sermon. Quite honestly, in our day, most people wouldn't remember the original anyway. But I'd rather they get something that came from valid interpretation repeated to them than branch out to the point where my supposed insights becomes the interpretive rule rather than the original meaning of the author.

Thanks for your comments.

Bumble said...

Well said, Peter. Wish I could be that consistent.

I strive to preach the intention of the author; but sometimes I believe that I strive to preach the intention of The Author instead. (Especially when I had a hard time second guess what's the author's intention - like when I run into obscured places in the OT with the contradictory takes from my trusted commentaries...)

Peter Bogert said...


I understand. But I can't see that it is more in tune with the Spirit to derive something obscure from the text or something that is not there. You might find the book The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text by Greidanus of interest.

Have a great day today!

Bumble said...

Peter, thank you for your understanding, and please forgive my stubborness.

I didn't mean that we should get an "obscure meaning" out of the text; just that some "obscure text" may be impossible to derive the author's intention.

Let's take the case of Esther marrying to the king. Would it be possible to determine the author's intended application? At the book level, it's a call to observe Purim, which Christian won't do; so we talk about God's providence. But at the chapter/segment level, did the author intended to portray Esther as a positive example, or negative example?

So what do I do? I take a look at the current onslaught from the culture on the people of God. And I brought in the fact that the king was a pagan, the fact that the beauty was just focusing on physical attributes, then I enlisted other Scriptures against those behaviors to build a case against it.

Or I could study a different set of commentaries, discuss it with a different set of people/tradition, and come up with the opposite intention...

This is more true for the OT than the NT. (And I think that's why people preached more NT).

Peter Bogert said...


I understand (and sympathize!!) I would have to think for a bit on how I would handle that specific situation!

Tom Gilson said...

Part of the problem is that this sermon misses what's clearly there and purports to find new, hidden nuggets buried underneath. In the process it trivializes what's there. There's a huge difference between the real triumphal entry and "Are you Christ's donkey?" It's so comical I'm crying!

It reminds me of something that used to annoy and amuse me from the opposite direction. There was once a great deal of angst about "backward masking" in music. Allegedly, you could play some records (vinyl, in those days) backwards and hear strange demonic messages in them. Supposedly, these backward messages had sinful subliminal effects on listeners. What they failed to notice was that the record was pretty raunchy played forward. The real sin was trivialized by this questionable mining for hidden messages.

Is it a quest for esoteric knowledge that drives this? Or is it just boredom?