a mess, a meal, and a map

After 'making a mess in the kitchen, it is time to put a meal on the table' - a meal that is nutritious, attractive and ordered. That is how my Pakistani friends describe the journey from text to sermon. I love it. Engaging the biblical passage, using skills of observation and exegesis, does make a mess ... and then the goal is to turn that mess into a meal.

For some years I have been developing the metaphor of a map to help people make this transition. Keep tweaking it... The full notes always felt so heavy in those early years, leaving learners a bit overwhelmed. So I've been pushing the notes later and later into the session. Last week in Egypt, I never got to the notes at all...and it seemed to go well.

In their table groups I had people draw a map of their country. Then they were asked to plan a trip for Barby and I, taking us to the places they think we should experience in their homeland. The trip needed to visit different states/provinces (or governorates in Egypt - that is a mouthful, let me tell you!) and cities/towns along the way. The artists came out. The travel agents emerged. The group dynamic was fantastic. Showing the best features of their country (particularly when it is misrepresented in the media, which is often the case) is something people love to do.

This group from a single church in Cairo did a nice job (even though the camera setting was on 'sunset'!).

The work of a group that came across from 5ud@n was also a feature...

By the end the groups were offering us discounted travel, plenty of  'home-stays' and the best guides...

Then I teased them with the idea that what they had just been doing was a bit like preparing and preaching a sermon from a passage of the Bible. That passage is a bit like a country and in the sermon we enter it and travel through it - from state to state, city to city. We lived with this juxtaposition for a bit (in grassroots training, 'juxtaposition' is the favourite word that I can never use), drawing out their ideas about any osmosis that takes place.

This happened on Day Three of the seminar. Still no notes. The next thing to do was to return to the sermons that had been preached on the two earlier days: Nehemiah 8 and Psalm 126. Back we went to them, with new eyes, to see how they illustrated this model of using a map to move from mess to meal (oh dear, that is a lot of Ms, not to mention a few mixed metaphors ... oh no, still more Ms!). Or, if you like sporting metaphors, the preached sermon was the game - and now I was providing some commentary on what they heard.

Through the afternoon on that Day Three, they had an opportunity to have a go themselves, preparing sermon outlines on Colossians 1.28-29. Still no notes (although I urged them to read through them on their own and bring back their questions). Then, through the afternoon on Day Four, they had another opportunity to practise the process, this time with Luke 8.11-15. As the translator worked through their sheets with me, I was delighted. Rarely have I seen such an accurate grasp of the basic idea after just the second effort. Still no notes. This is the work they produced (for those of you who know Arabic, not too many, I suspect!):

Hopefully, they will keep practising over the coming months...

As a metaphor, the map becomes the scaffolding to be removed once the building has been constructed, the midwife who can leave once the baby has been born. We don't want to hear about the map in the sermon itself :).

nice chatting



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