Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Challenge of Preaching about Honey

The challenge of course, is that words are simply inadequate to capture honey. They can not convey the experience of tasting honey. The only way to truly know honey, is by tasting. As Jonathan Edwards says:
There is a difference between believing that God is holy and gracious, and having a new sense on the heart of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. The difference between believing that God is gracious and tasting that God is gracious is as different as having a rational belief that honey is sweet and having the actual sense of its sweetness.

By my carefully chosen words, artfully crafted stories, and precisely accurate descriptions, I might convince you to believe honey is sweet. I might even begin to convey something of the experience of eating honey. But until you take a that first intoxicating bite, you will have no familiarity with the unique joy that is honey, nor knowledge of its exact flavor.

God is both simpler and more complex than honey.

One the one hand, God is infinitely more complex. (that's probably an understatement!) A few tastings might be sufficient to let us feel we have a taste for honey. But a lifetime of acquaintance with God will only serve as a prelude to begin to know him as he is.

But on the other hand, we might also say that God is simpler. Or we might at least say that we have more resources at hand. God has revealed himself to us in such a way that we might know who he is.

But the challenge remains. Can I preach in such a way that people will not only learn about God, and even believe in him, but feel in their gut the comfort of his sovereignty; taste the sweetness of his holiness; the joy of his goodness; feel awe at his infinity; be humbled by his mercy; feel loved by his love; fear his majesty; delight in his grace; be confounded by his providence yet submit to his wisdom with peace and confidence?

Because God is a person (though not a human), knowledge of him will always be experiential, and complex. In comparison, preaching seems so mundane, so one-dimensional. When I first read the Edwards quote above, I despaired of preaching, as though preaching could only convey knowledge not experience. And yet God has ordained the spoken, preached word as one means by which he makes himself known to his people. Preaching is not limited to conveying merely an abstract sense, which must then be ratified by concrete experience. God is able to convey himself through preaching. Preaching can indeed impart a "new sense on the heart."

To know honey, you need a bear-shaped bottle of goodness, and a spoon. To know God you need the scriptures, able to make you wise unto salvation, able to let you taste and see that the Lord is good.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

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