Dwelling together in scripture’s room

How can preachers and listeners develop a practice of lingering with the text?

Is preparing to preach a weekly chore or transformative practice? Annette Brown­lee insists it is a key spiritual practice with the potential to form and transform preachers, congregations, and  broader com­munities. In conversation with Augustine’s On Chris­tian Teaching, Brown­lee identifies this practice as integral to the pastoral vocation of binding oneself to God’s people and God’s Word for the sake of God’s world. Such binding nurtures an appreciation for “the other” that is likely to transform preachers and their communities.

Brown­lee notes the relationship be­tween persevering with challenging as­pects of scripture and loving those within our congregations and communities, difficult as they may be at times. “The art of attentively reading the strange, sometimes difficult words of Scripture is similar to the ability to love our neighbor across the chasm of difference and offense.”

Living out such attentiveness and love is integral to the vocation of the church as a light to the world. Brownlee reminds us that while the public role of the church may be shrinking within the West, its vocation to be a light to the world has not been eclipsed. The congregation learning to read scripture theologically contributes to this vocation. One way in which such reading is developed is through sermons that are theologically sound while also attentive to the world of the text.