illumination on sunday

Off the train. Into a taxi. The long weekend in Mysore with our friends, Rod & Denise Edwards, had begun. Immediately, our chatty taxi-driver asked me, "Are you here for the illumination on Sunday?"

"Yes, we are."

Every Sunday night, the Mysore Palace is illuminated with thousands and thousands of light bulbs. It lasts for 45 minutes. Spectacular. They are the weekly minutes around which Mysore's thriving tourist industry is dependent. Here is the Palace anticipating the illumination to come:

Just a few minutes later, here is the Palace enjoying its illumination fully:

Anyone who knows me well knows exactly where my mind went when the taxi driver uttered those words. Yep, you guessed it. The role of the Holy Spirit in preaching.

I am big on the Word. But I am big on the Spirit too. Gotta keep Word and Spirit together. Over the years of my involvement in teaching preaching, a persistent annoyance has been how often those most committed to biblical preaching say so little about the Spirit. Flick through evangelical textbooks on preaching, for starters. To help avoid this malady, I have four pictures that fill my imagination.

(a) It was my Langham Preaching colleague, John Tucker, who I first heard use the metaphor of the train. The carriage is the sermon. The tracks are the Word. The engine is the Spirit. Think about it. It is a goodie. The Spirit pulls the sermon along the tracks which are provided by the Word.

(b) It was a former principal of Moore College (Sydney), John Woodhouse, who provided the quote that gives me my second picture. Word and Spirit are like God's Speech and Breath. That is the way the Bible talks. Can you separate your speech from your breath? It is difficult to do so! Well - stop doing it to God.

Then a couple of my own images:
(c) I like picturing the journey from text to sermon to be one that visits four corners. Start with the corner of the text - move to the corner of the (believing) listener - move on to the wider (unbelieving) world in which that listener lives - come to the corner of the preacher themselves ... before returning to the corner of the text where the final shape and purpose of the sermon will be determined.

One of the reasons why I love using the 'four corners' is because it welcomes a strong doctrine of the Spirit into the journey to the sermon. It is the Spirit who inspires the text. It is the Spirit who illuminates the listener. It is the Spirit who can, and must, authenticate the truth for those immersed in the world. It is the Spirit who anoints the preacher.

(d) One day I looked at the power-generating windmills on the hills around Palmerston North in New Zealand. Why are they there? It is because those hills are known to be a place where the wind blows.The Spirit is sovereign and like a wind, it blows where it wills (John 3.5-8). BUT it is possible to immerse yourself in scripture and in history and discover 'the windy place' where the Spirit has been known to blow ... and then to go and stand in that place and have a greater expectancy about the likelihood of the Spirit blowing through my preaching because I do so.

Here's to illuminations on Sunday - be it for 45 minutes each week in Mysore, or wherever it is that God's Word is opened and preached.

nice chatting



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