pull on the thread

It is often a passing phrase that catches the eye, isn't it?

Like when I read Tim Keller's book, Preaching, four years ago. A little phrase squeezed its way into my imagination. It refused to move. It remained there, sparking away.

Page 73: 'pull on the thread'.

This was the month to do something about it. I was searching for a simple, memorable way to introduce people to biblical theology - especially the way multiple themes travel across the Bible. It is a big deal. We need to learn to read our Bibles in a different way. People tend to split the Testaments apart, seeing them as different books, almost in opposition to each other. In reality it is a single book and it is these themes which keep the unity of the Bible. It is one of the reasons why I believe the Bible has a divine origin. How else do you explain a book written over hundreds of years by dozens of authors having such a carefully crafted, single story?

As Barby and I travelled, we hatched a plan. These themes are like threads. This story is like a tapestry, as these threads stitch and weave their way across the Bible, creating a tight and colourful unity. We need to pull on these threads a bit and see how the tapestry is formed.


With the group in front of me, I started with the thread of the Shepherd, as I placed the Table of Contents of Laniak's Shepherds After My Own Heart) before them. What do you see? Describe what is happening in your own words? Then it was the thread we know as The Kingdom of God, as we considered a diagram in Vaughan Roberts', God's Big Story. After those two examples, it was time for them to have a try. I gave them another thread and in groups they had to find the stitching as it threaded its way through the biblical story: The Presence of God. By this time we were having some serious fun together...

Then it was on to introducing them to The NIV Zondervan Study Bible (2015), edited by DA Carson. It is a newer Study Bible designed to give a better understanding of the threads which make up the tapestry we know as the Bible. What a resource! Hidden away, near the back (56 pages from page 2640 to 2696, to be exact) are 25 threads, explained so clearly and succinctly - and helping us to 'observe carefully how the passage of time enlarges and enriches (these themes)' (Carson, 2637).

While I was working away on the Word, Barby was working away on the Image. She created little bookmarks for every single participant to help them remember this new way of reading the Bible. Although, after she handed them out, I asked the group, "OK - so when you see this bookmark in your Bible, what will come to mind?". In unison, spontaneously, they shouted out, "Barby!". Oh dear, so much for my pedagogy. But then, who am I to complain? Remembering Barby is right up there with remembering the Bible, isn't it?



This is all so important for the preacher. These threads run through and across every passage from which we preach. Our awareness of this stitching needs to grow. In fact, here is the biblical context that sits alongside the historical and literary contexts to form the triumvirate of contexts which help the preacher keep within the truth and not wander across to bad, even false, teaching. Furthermore, if a preacher ever wants to do a topical sermon/series, here is the place to start: pull on a thread, or two, and see what you discover with your people.

On the subject of context, they did a nice job (I think, how can I really be sure?) of translating
this dense, but crucial, sentence into their own words in their heart-language. 

As a trainer, I am stoked. Now I have three stages, all so simple, in the way I can open up biblical theology, without using that phrase at all. At the first level I can use the pictures and the chairs, both so fun and interactive. At the next level, from now it will be a case of pulling on the threads and seeing the tapestry. And then, finally, it is about finding the legitimate pathways to Jesus from the different parts of the Bible because he is both the focus and the destination of the story.

nice chatting

Paul

PS. Barby also did a bit of teaching, for the first time (she is rarely able to travel with me to seminars) - with a session helping people distinguish between teacher-centred and learner-centred training.


Comments

Heather said…
Wonderful :-)
Geoff New said…
As a recipient of one of these beautiful bookmarks - and as one of those who cried out "Barby" when you asked what will we remember when we see it - if it is any consolation, my answer has morphed to "Barbical Theology " 😁
Geoff New said…
Actually - misspelt above - it's "Barblical Theology."
I am lost for words - or, the words that come to mind may not be appropriate!

It was great to have you with us.

Peter Anderson said…
Brilliant. The idea of threads reminded me of hearing Corrie Ten Boom as a little boy. She held up the back side of a tapestry with its tangled threads before turning it over to show a beautiful picture. A different illustration of course but nevertheless in my mind all the threads do make for a richer fuller picture of our God and His plan.
That is such a powerful image from Corrie Ten Boom. So simple and everyday - but illustrating such transformative truth.

Blessings

Paul

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