The Real Exposition of Scripture: The Entire Service, not just a Sermon

It is often claimed that the missional church might be loosing the high standard of expository preaching.  And often we don’t exactly help to clarify this when we rail against individualized, overly rationalistic, disembodied information dumps which masquerade as the worst of expository preaching (love ya Dave).  And when we claim that interpretation is a communal activity not reducible to a grammatical-historical method, many think we, the missional church, have given up on the Word of God.  Well…we haven’t.  In fact, we do the real expository preaching!

In our worship gathering the question is not if exposition happens, but where exactly it happens.  Someone new to our gathering, steeped in the traditions of expository preaching, commented to one of our co-pastors that while biblical exposition didn’t happen in the sermon (as classically understood), it instead happens throughout the entire service. I think this is absolutely correct.  Let me explain by walking us through last week’s worship gathering.

Our preaching text was Romans 8.1-8, 12-13, celebrating that for those in Christ there is therefore now no condemnation.  The rest of the lectionary was Isaiah 43.16-21, Psalm 126, and John 7.53 – 8.11 [the woman caught in adultery].

The Life on the Vine Liturgy (03/21/10):

  • Before the service, at 9am, we have a teaching class which lays out the basic framework of the morning text to be preached.
  • In the service, after the time of silence and invocation we sang the call to worship, Wake Up, (which we recently wrote based in the text of Roman 13), calling us to attend to the work of Christ.
  • Then comes the Scripture readings, read from the four walls of the sanctuary symbolizing that we are being surrounded by the words of God, ending with a reading from the Gospel of John and how Christ did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. .
  • Between the readings and the sermon is what we call the Liturgion (a litany and motion icon), which in this case was a guided meditation on the painting, “Christ and the Adulterous” by Jan Brueghel, focused on Christ’s non-condemning spirit.  The questions asked were: why is Jesus the lowest in the painting?  Who is at the center of the painting?  What is the significance of that?  Why is the crowd fading into darkness?  Notice that man who dropped the stone…notice that he is the second lowest.  What does his posture resemble?  Notice the shape of the woman’s hands.  What does all this tell us about Jesus?
  • Only after all this comes the sermon (which for us is only one aspect of the dual apex of the service), which we conceive as a focused time of displaying the gospel of Christ and drawing everyone into the Kingdom of God.  In the sermon there of course will be information conveyed and reference made to grammar and genre.  But the true reference of exposition is always Christ himself and his saving work towards which all our preaching must speak.  This week’s sermon focused on living in the hope that while we are guilty, in Christ we are not condemned.
  • After the sermon is a time of response through congregational prayer and two worship songs (Grace Flows Down, Wondrous Cross).
  • Then comes the second apex of our service, the Eucharist, or Communion, or the Lord’s Table, which is itself a fully participatory exposition of the non-condemning hospitality of Christ, and a fully participatory congregational response in faith and hope.
  • During this time of coming to the Table we celebrate the non-condemning love of Christ in three songs: You are My King, Kyrie Eleison (a song we wrote on Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension), and Let us Love and Sing and Wonder.
  • Finally, in the Benediction, we are sent out as the non-condemned people of God, the Body of Christ, offered for the life of the world.

Of course, reading this pails compared to experiencing it.  But for us, at Life on the Vine, exposition happens throughout the entire service, not just in the sermon.  And it is done is a fully biblical, artistic, and immersive situation.  Instead of a 30 minute exposition of the grammar, structure, and meaning of Romans 8, we have a 75 minutes exposition engaging the heart, soul, mind, and spirit, rather than just the mind.

So let it not be said that this missional church doesn’t care about biblical exposition, but rather that we care so much that we make and entire service out of it!

So, then, where does biblical exposition happen for you in your context?  Is it similar or different?