April 12 2022
What’s in a Sermon? Part 5: Reflection
Having looked at the Context of a Bible passage and an Overview of what is happening in the passage as a whole, we come to the main point of the sermon, which is derived from a Reflection on the passage.
Now, to be honest, “Reflection” may not be the best title for this point in the sermon but it fits the acronym we are working toward, so “Reflection” it is. The idea is to provide a summary of the main point of the passage you are working with—what you find, upon Reflection, Prayer, Contemplation that the Scripture is saying.
In this section, you are still in the process of getting at the heart of what God has said in the text. Your creativity so far is still about explaining what is already there. While you may be seeing it in new ways, your main goal through all three of the first points is to get at the heart of the text, that people would see the Word of God plainly.
Reflection gets to the heart of your exegetical work. It is here that the meaning in the text should be plainly articulated to the congregation. They need to hear from you what you see as the meaning—and how it fits with the faith once delivered to the saints.
This is, ultimately, the truth you are delivering that you want remembered. If nothing else is remembered from your sermon, you want this remembered. Why? Do you really think that folks are going to need that cute story about the dog next Thursday in a family tragedy? Or that they will always remember how well you raised money for the new kitchen?
Neither one of those are eternal truth. You want this to be eternal truth, truth that the Holy Spirit can work deeper and deeper into their hearts throughout the week.
Returning to the previous example of the Beatitudes, one might find several high points of meaning that share well in the Reflection, though you would be able to narrow it down to a summary that the blessed life is found counter to the normal expectations of this world. You could then use those sub-points to help explain how that is the main meaning in the passage.
I would refer you to works such as Grasping God’s Word by Hays/Duvall to address the question of “one meaning” in the text. I find it valid to say there is a primary meaning and also to note that this primary meaning is universal. That is—the blessed life is found counter to the normal expectations of this world holds true in 21st century America, 8th century Polynesia, and 2nd century China. How it fleshes out may be different, what aspect of the cultural push is hardest may be different. But if your “Reflection” finds a truth that is only valid in your current cultural climate, you have probably jumped ahead to an application point and need to slow down a step.
Are you going to get the Reflection perfectly? Probably not, but you will do well to put your research time into this. See what other commentators and preachers have found. Read widely—from the Ancient Christian Commentary Series to the Commentary for Christian Formation to the New Horizons Commentary and so forth. You want to work on seeing robustly into the truth here, not just hitting the flavor of the moment.
This gets us to the heart of the sermon: you are proclaiming God’s clear truth here. You will likely find a couple of things to note, because you should almost always be able to find the Gospel of salvation in the text. Share them plainly. Share them with enthusiasm. If you believe that the Holy Spirit will take the Word of God and remind His people of it in the week to come, this is where you push hard for understanding, because this is where you are dealing with the Word of the Lord.