Speaking with Andrew Sloane
I love getting the opportunity to hear people preach. I am also curious about how different people prepare sermons. So with that in mind here are some questions I asked Andrew.
Can you think of a sermon that had a big impact on you? Why has it stayed with you?
Yes. Your triptych on Judges 4 and 5 the other week… Otherwise: years ago, when I was teaching at Ridley College in Melbourne, my colleague Richard Condie preached on Daniel 7 in chapel. Rather than rushing on to the explanation (and the expected ‘Jesus bit’), he allowed the dangerous, unsettling imagery of the vision to speak. It helped me see how a passage like that articulates the chaos we see around us, enables us to connect with the existential threats associated with it, and yet see that somehow, in a way difficult to grasp, and impossible to communicate in classical propositional statements, God is still sovereign Lord of love in it. It gave me insight into the passage, but also into how vision reports aim to shape our vision of the world and so navigate our way through it.
What was your process preparing to teach at Seaforth?
Brace, brace ,brace! I recognised from the get-go that this was a difficult passage in a difficult book—and that I’d be finishing up a series on a book that is the focus of the lead pastor’s PhD! So, after asking myself, ‘Why did I ever agree to do this?’, I prayed, and carefully read the passage. I tried to think about the people who might be hearing this sermon—and where they might be at the end of a series on this book.
I did a rough translation of the Hebrew, and tried to spot important words and motifs. The bitter, vicious ironies of Israel’s actions in these chapters (and the way they pick up on key motifs through the book) was powerfully evident. And I read it again, and prayed (and wept, I must say), and tried to figure out what this passage was doing. Why did the author write this? What were they trying to do? What kind of effects did they want to have on those who heard this story? And why end the book this way?
And, I know it sounds terribly pious, but I prayed a bit more. Trying to discern what God might have been doing through this passage as a conclusion to the Book of Judges, and as part of the canon of the Old and New Testaments. And then seek to discern what God might be saying to God’s people at Seaforth.
Do you think sermons still have a role in a church’s worship gathering? Why/why not?
Yep. I think that fundamental to Church life is gathering around God’s word in order to be shaped by it. Sermons are one way we can do that. There are others—reading the Bible in worship, shaping prayers around key texts, reflective practices, interactive learning, etc. But sermons have played an important role in the life of the Church for generations, and still provide an opportunity for us to be challenged and encouraged and inspired by Scripture and gain fresh insights from it.