What does a sermon sound like or look like to you? The Reverend Kate Bruce, the author of ‘Igniting the heart: Preaching and Imagination’ says, “Imagination frames how we see the world and ourselves in it. As such it has a vital role in how preachers see the preaching task itself, which in turn affects how we go about the task.” This week, Carol Holdsworth shares her sermon notes with us. Carol’s approach to crafting a sermon is to ponder the Bible readings and begin to doodle and draw where God takes her heart. The process of drawing calls upon Carol’s creativity and her sermon evolves as she allows God’s word to dwell in her heart. When Carol’s health permits, the delivery of a sermon comes not from written notes, but from the picture she has drawn.
Sermon for Bible Sunday…
Carol’s sermon is based on Isaiah 55:1-11 and John 5:36-47 which can be found on this link
Creative engagement with the Bible
For Christians who are serious about growing in the knowledge and love of God, the Bible is a valuable resource – but if this is the case, why do so few people feel comfortable reading the Bible? If we can learn about our relationship with God through the Bible, why does it sometimes seem so hard? Maybe we need to find new ways to read the Bible, ways we haven’t tried before. Can we find a way to learn about God from the Bible that is as easy as eating a sandwich? Here are a selection of ways that have helped others, is there something which may help you?
- Read a bit of the Bible with a friend or loved one, and then talk about it. What makes sense? What is confusing? What is easy and what is hard? If you have more questions than answers, ask your friendly local Vicar for help! There are also Bibles with study notes to help explain what is happening.
- Silent listening.
- Also known as Lectio Divina. A process of reading or listening to the Bible being read a few times, slowly and thinking about the words in quiet prayer – asking the Holy Spirit to help you understand in your heart.
- Putting yourself in the story.
- Also known as Ignatian Contemplation. A process of reading the Bible and then imagining yourself in the story to come to know Jesus better. What would it be like to be the woman at the well, or one of the 10 lepers who came for healing? What would it be like to reach out for Jesus cloak in desperation for healing, or to be the rich young man seeking Jesus’ approval?
- Read a Bible story to yourself and then try to retell it imaginatively – how would the story of Mary and Jesus sound if retold as though they were homeless refugees? How would the story of Jonah visiting Nineveh go if he had visited the Colne Valley?
- A great deal of scripture can be found in our hymns, but we can also read and sing the Psalms. There are spiritual songs which are helpful.
- Liturgical Prayer
- Most of our Sunday services and the discipline of Morning and Evening Prayer come from the Bible – the words we say today mainly come from Holy Scripture.
- Memorising Scripture
- God said to the Hebrews as they fled Egypt: ‘Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.’ Why not find a short piece of scripture and learn it. Make it special to you. As the Song of Solomon goes: “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.”
- Gospel in one go
- Take Mark’s Gospel and sit and read it in one go. It will change the way you listen to the Gospel readings forever.
- Bible in a year
- If you like long term reading plans, there are hundreds of different ways to read the Bible in a year – chronologically, thematically, book by book, alternating Old and New Testaments… find a way that works for you.
- Bible as a novel
- I once read Walter Wangerin’s, “The Bible as a Novel” – he padded out the Bible stories so that they read more easily by adding character to dramatic effect into holy scripture. I found I could read the whole thing a lot more easily and get a good overview of the entire Bible.
- Bible reading notes
- There are guidebooks to the Bible – sometimes easier to read than the Bible itself.
- Different Bibles
- John Wycliffe is credited with producing the first complete translation of the Bible into English in the year 1382…since then over a hundred different translations have been made into English. I prefer the New Standard Revised Version – which we use in the Lectionary – but there are so many more it is possible to find one that speaks your language. From the Good News to the NIV, or even the Lego Bible… and of course in God’s own country there is the “Ee by Gum, Lord!: The Gospels in Broad Yorkshire” written in 1996.
- Audio Bible
- Sometimes it is nice to listen to the Bible instead of read it. David Suchet has a particularly good reading voice and you can listen to him read the whole Bible in one year on audible.
- Bible Gateway
- The internet has all the Bible resources you could possibly want, and many you probably don’t want! The Bible Gateway is a trustworthy resource.
- Bible Journal
- It is possible to get Bible with wide margins and space for you to record your own thoughts – so that you can treat reading the Bible as a journal.
- Mindfulness Bible
- Why not doodle as you read? Read a bit of the Bible and then let your mind wander and see where God takes you.
- Creative response
- As with Carol’s sermon preparation – many people like to respond creatively to the Bible; drawing, writing, singing, or even turning the Bible readings into something physical like stained glass or a sculpture.
In the history of Christian life, there has never been such a rich resource of material to help us study the Bible, to learn more about God the Father, who gave his only Son so that we might have life in all its fullness. If you are serious about growing in the knowledge and love of God – then find a resource which works for you – and give God some of your time.
Carol Holdsworth is a Reader in the Church of England and was licensed to the Benefice of Marsden and Slaithwaite on 30 May 2021 by the Bishop of Huddersfield.