Last Sunday I preached at Highgrove Church on the topic of ‘Songs of the Saviour’, looking at Jesus Christ in the Psalms:
I was keen to read quite a bit of scripture as part of the talk and honed in on Psalm 22 and Mark 15. As part of this, I also reference the following (by no means exhaustive) references to the Psalms in the gospels:
Sufferings of Christ
- Stone the builders rejected: Ps 2:8; 118:22-23 – Matt 21:42
- The Garden of Gethsemane: Ps 40 – Matt 26:42
- His close friends would betray him: Ps 41:9
- Jesus’ last few words “into your hands I commit my Spirit” quote Ps 31:5.
- His bones will not be broken: Ps 34:20
- He will rise from the dead – “you will not let your faithful one see decay”: Ps 16:8-10
Glories of Christ – the God depicted in Psalms fit Jesus like a glove
- Kings bow down to him: Ps 72:10 – Matt 2:11
- Descendant of David: Ps 89:3-4; 35-36
- Beatitudes blessed are the meek: Psalms refer to the meek Ps 37:11
- Jesus calms the storm: Ps 107:29; 65:7 – Mk 8:24; Matt 8:26
- As Jesus is clearing the Temple, the disciples remembered that it was said in Ps 69:9: “zeal for your house will consume me.”
I sought to avoid giving the impression that these are ‘proof texts’, but rather convey the frequency with which the gospels draw upon the Psalms as it processes what is going on in and through the life of Jesus. The frequency with which Jesus himself quotes or draws upon the Psalms cannot be ignored. Interpreting scripture through the lens of Jesus does not mean that we read every passage as pointing to Jesus. But that the story of Israel, and our story, only begins to make sense as we read scripture with new eyes. The story only hangs together with Jesus.
… the New Testament continually uses the book of Psalms to fix our gaze upon the excellencies of Christ, upon [his] majesty, beauty, and glory.
– Michael Morales
The advent of the iPod and smartphone era has led to a tonne of great preaching content being made available on the inter-web. Listening to some of the best preaching in the world is as easy as clicking a few buttons in your web browser or smartphone.
I listen to my fair share of podcasts – 51 subscriptions currently – that I dip in and out of from time-to-time.
The proliferation in the availability of great preaching on the web is something I feel blessed to have access to but there are also some things about it that bother me. As I reflect on the relative merits of listening to sermons online, I think there are a number of pros and cons:
- Online sermons reach people and places that preachers cannot. If you can’t get to church because of old age, health issues, or work you can still ‘catch up’ on what you may have missed in your community that week and feel part of things. If you serve regularly in children’s ministry, for example, it can be a valuable way of keeping up with the series whilst you’re serving in other ways.
- The availability of podcasts has also meant that it is easier than ever to listen to some of the most gifted Bible expositors out there. I know that I have benefitted from listening to the reflections and techniques used by other gifted preachers which has helped me to communicate more effectively.
- There is a lack of accountability inherent in listening to sermons sans church. Engaging with scripture as a community involves accountability and challenge – we are encouraged to reflect and apply what we are learning in small groups to not just be hearers of the Word, but doers. Relationships are a key element of spiritual formation. In contrast, you can easily listen to a podcast online and not interact with another human being. We can’t do the Christian life on our own. I want to sit under theWord of God alongside those God has called me to journey with in my church family.
- Perhaps most importantly for me, listening to talks online can’t replace the ‘Now’ Word of God. Listening to talks online have many merits, but nothing can replace the immediate relevance of the Holy Spirit working through the preacher to convey the Word of God to the congregation in a particular time and place. Have you ever heard someone raving about a talk, only to listen to it later yourself online, to be disappointed by what you hear? I think there is something important about being there in person to sense what God is saying through his Word, that simply isn’t present after the fact.
- Linked to this, it can easily slip into being a cerebral exercise that can reflect and feed a thirst for knowledge, but gives you very little context within which to apply it. As Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up, love builds up.” God is not looking for podcast junkies, but for people hungry for him and thirsty to apply the Word of God to their lives.
- Related to this, listening to highly talented preachers via podcast – divorced from your own church context – can easily feed a culture of celebrity in the church and become ‘consumeristic’. With podcasts, you can pick and choose to listen to preachers or talks you are interested in hearing, and just as easily avoid subjects or passages that you want to avoid because you find them difficult or challenging. That is not a healthy diet.
Used well and discerningly, listening to podcasts can enrich your spiritual life and feed you deeply. But it is a supplement and not a replacement for ‘live’ preaching. Use it carefully to enhance and not detract from your spiritual formation.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts…
A recent talk given to my church family:
Inspired by Tom Wright’s Virtue Reborn, I’ve been finishing off our whistle-stop tour of Galatians.
Despite the protestations from the Mrs, Tomatoes are a fruit, technically. Get the PDF here.
I love this image of Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son returning to his father. I’m also really enjoying our series on Galatians at the moment:
Having survived a rough night’s sleep to raise money for the work of the Crisis Centre, Bristol, on Friday night, I’ve been sharing some thoughts this weekend on Elijah at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-40). A fantastic story!
I’m trying to explore at the moment how to tell the story of Scripture in a way that comments on and enables people to engage with it rather than trotting out the same old three-point sermon that can kill people’s engagement with the story unfolding through the text. Not suggesting I’m any good at it mind you!
“One of the Wor…”
The YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement.
“You’re not going to like this, but you haven’t liked this sermon up till now so why would I want to please you now?…”
This would be hilarious if he was actually trying to be funny… And to think this guy was only a runner up in the Worst Preacher Ever Championships 😉
Some of my recent thoughts on forgiveness based on Genesis 50 follow. I love Henri Nouwen’s description of forgiveness:
“love practised among people who love poorly.”