The Three-Steps: Biblical Interpretation for Preaching – Pablo Jimenez

Posted on July 21, 2014 by drpablojimenez

Printable version & Powerpoint Notes: Biblical Preaching 102

I have used the Three-Steps System for many years, always receiving great feed back from the students. I hope you find this system useful. It has been developed in dialogue with the writings of Ronald J. Allen, particularly with Contemporary Biblical Interpretation for Preaching (Judson Press, 1984) & Interpreting the Gospel: An Introduction to Preaching (Chalice Press, 1998).

I. Point of contact: First Step in the Preparation of Biblical Sermons (Estimated time: 30 — 45 minutes)

Begin with prayer. Ask God to make you sensible to the Word and to speak through your sermon to the congregation. Keep a devotional atmosphere throughout the exercise.

Read the text several times. Work primarily with the translation that has become part of your own being. Compare it with other translations for the purpose of contrasting emphasis, movement, and structure. Some recommended translations are: NRSV, RSV, JB, NIV, TEV and NEB. Do not use secondary sources for this exercise.

Read the text once more, aloud and with feeling. Only then, proceed to answer the following questions.

1.What are the questions that this text sparks?

2.What feelings surface as you read the text?

3.What memories does the text cause you to recall?

4.Imagine that you are immersed in the world of the text:

What do you see?
What do you hear?
What do you smell?
What do you touch?
What do you taste?
How does it feel to be in that world?
5.Has your perception of the text changed? How?

6.What is this text about? List the topics and ideas suggested by the text.

II. Explanation: Second Step in the Preparation of Biblical Sermons (Estimated time: 60-90 minutes)

After a direct interaction with the text, turn to secondary sources such as commentaries, dictionaries, and other homiletic aids. Insofar as possible, identify the historical context in which the text is found. Then, proceed to answer the following questions.

1.What was the situation of the community to whom the text was written?

2.Identify the form, the function and the literary structure of the text.

3.Note the key words of the text. How are they used in this particular document?

4.Have you found answers to you questions about the text?

5.What are the mayor theological claims of the text?

6.Enumerate the topics suggested by the text.

III. Interpretation: Third Step in the Preparation of Biblical Sermons (Estimated time: 30-45 minutes)

Move once again to the present, exploring the message of the text for the contemporary Church. Make the hermeneutic movement self-consciously and critically. Then, proceed to answer the following questions.

1.Establish a correlation between your social location and the social location of the text. What realities function in our world in the same way as in the world of the text?

Identify the salvific elements. Identify the sources of conflict.
Who is the powerful? Who are powerless?
In order to interpret the text appropriately, with whom do we should identify with in the text?
2.Does the function of the text in its ancient setting suggest a possible function for our sermon in our setting?

3.Does the form or the literary structure of the text suggest a given design for the sermon?

4.Does the text suggest any guidelines for contemporary pastoral action?

5.What are the “good news” for the congregation? For the Church at large? For the world?

6.Enumerate the possible “sermons-in-a-sentence” suggested by the text.

Have you noticed?

September 2, 2014
Have you noticed?
How idolatry has penetrated our culture

Have you noticed? Have you given it much thought? Lately the entire world seems tied up in the rich, the famous, the celebrity, or the notorious. Even the bad guys are not really bad. Have you seen any of the Disney movies lately? (Spoiler Alert) Maleficent whose name in essence signifies evil, is not the bad guy of the movie she’s the good fairy. She’s the protector, the bad guy I the king.
The message is completely twisted around. In recent years we have seen how the culture and idolization, a nicer description of idolatry has penetrated every aspect of our culture. We that live in the United States have seen it in the now not as flashy or popular American Idol shows. Where the entire nation stopped just to watch. It even became an attraction, a ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Now don’t get me wrong I have nothing against Disney or Hollywood or entertainment but my issue is how we American’s, a culture that prided itself in thinking big, being generous, fair play, reaching for the stars, have allowed the triviality to penetrate our lives.
In this postmodern world where everything is allowed, there is no good or bad, only relativity, no truth, just perspectives of reality, we have allowed the triviality of celebrity worship to penetrate our lives.
I used to be a fan of ABC’s Good Morning America, I would love to watch the interaction the way the brought the news, but slowly very subtly the show has changed. It is now 90% frivolous trivia such as “The first pictures of Angelina Jolie’s wedding dress”. You would hardly hear anything about the investigation on the shooting of Michael Brown a man from Ferguson Missouri just for walking down the street. When we do hear something all we hear is that he was “involved in an incident of stealing cigars”.  You see our culture now needs to make him a criminal, a desperado that had to be put down.  We  hear no evidence,  did he did indeed have any cigars from the store in his pockets, or if did an all points bulletin (APB) with the description of the perpetrator go out. This young man was walking down the street and because he was on the street instead of the sidewalk a police stops him has an argument and empties his gun on him. What happened to due process?, Innocent until proven guilty. Trial by jury of our peers? All left out to dry because obviously the man is guilty, you see he is black, so he must be guilty. The same applies to Hispanics, or anyone that is a person of color (by the way that means not white) in the United States.
I see our country more and more polarized, since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, with have become a bitter nation, a paranoid people, that sees anyone that is not part of the “majority” as suspicious and we are distracted by the constant swirl of triviality from the media.
With all due respect to Brad and Angelina I could care less what color the dress was in their wedding after living together for 10 years. I really don’t care if your adopted children (kudos for that) drew on it or not, it is simply none of my business and it does not affect my world, my apologies for disappointing you.
Astronomer Carl Sagan called the Earth, the home we all share and have “a pale blue dot”. And really that’s what it is, Carl was the consummate observer, and when he convinced NASA to turn around Voyager 1’s camera in 1990 for one last look, that’s what he saw just a pale blue dot. But that pale blue dot is in trouble, we have big problems to solve and this world will need big people to solve them, not cardboard cutouts of celebrities with a depth of 0.25 inches of foam but real people with a depth of knowledge of humanity, economics, science and of course theology to guide this planet into how it needs to correct the mistakes of the past so we can have a future for our children.
To do so we need to recognize our mistakes. Its the first step to correcting them, if we don’t we will have the same trivial discussion we keep having, why is congress stalled in gridlock? guess? We have serious problems and it is time that we stop looking at what color was the dress celebrity x had. And we see what my neighbor’s needs are.


Manuel Collazo
Minister for Stewardship Education

Missing Ingredients

I was recently asked to lead a prayer at one of so many meetings that we attend at church.  I remember receiving an email from my good friend and mentor Dr. Skip Moen on Prayer.  I used it that day to lead the group into understanding what prayer to the great King David meant.  I hope and pray that you enjoy it.  The original devotional can be found in Dr. Moen’s Site by following this link:


Missing Ingredients – by Skip Moen, D. Phil.

In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer.  Psalm 109:4  ESV

I give myself to – Reading this verse presents a dilemma.  Are we to accept the gloss (the additional words) of the translation because it makes sense to us or are we to reject the gloss and end up with a difficult English sentence?  A quick review of English Bibles indicates that they all gloss this verse, adding words (and thoughts) that may not be present in the actual text.  They do this because of our conceptions of prayer, as we shall see.

First, let’s consider the Hebrew.  As you know, Hebrew grammar often omits the copula in the present tense.  For example, in Hebrew we would encounter Elohim Tov (God good) but in English we would translate “God is good.”  This seems fairly straightforward.  It means that in my paradigm I think of attributes as independent of the object they modify.  That is, “red” is independent of “car” in the description “red car.”  But in Hebrew thought, the object is the attribute.  If I take away the “red” in “red car,” I don’t have an uncolored car. Instead I don’t have any car at all.  This particular car is red.  That’s what makes it what it is.  So, “God is good,” does not suggest that goodness exists apart from God and is merely ascribed to Him.  In Hebrew, goodness is God and He cannot be conceived as God without it.

Now let’s apply this idea to David’s verse.  In Hebrew, the verse does not say, “I give myself to prayer.”  Nor does it say, “I am in prayer” (as we find in ISR or NASB).  In Hebrew it says wa’ani tefillah, “but I prayer.”  Apply the grammatical rule.  David says, “I am prayer.”  “There are three rungs to this ladder [of holding fast to God in worship].  Third best is to talk about prayer.  Second best is to pray.  Best is to be prayer.”[1]  The gloss in the English text might make the verse easier to read but it disguises David’s powerful statement by reducing it to something that our paradigm comprehends.

We think of prayer as an activity that we do or do not engage in. We think of such an activity as independent of who we are. We do not think of ourselves as prayer.  The translators of this verse have adopted the view that prayer is one thing and I am another thing and that there can be some nonessential connection between these two things.  But that isn’t David’s view.  For David, unless he is prayer, the evil of enemies will prevail.

What does it mean to be prayer?  I imagine that David sees the essential connection between God’s spoken word, power, creation, covenant, love and transformation in prayer.  I imagine that David experiences the personality of God in a conversation that does not know the difference between subject and object.  But I can only imagine – because I am not prayer.  David challenges me to put aside my truncated understanding and become something I am not.

Topical Index: prayer, ani tefillah, gloss, Psalm 109:4

[1] Chaim Stern, ed., Gates of Forgiveness: The Union S’lichot Service, Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1993, p. 7.


Let us pray, that we become prayer.  Let us pray that the transforming love of Jesus Christ, let it encompass all of us in this place, that his love be our Shalom, that peace that overpasses all understanding.  Will you join me.

Heavenly Father, Creator, Lord, Prince of Peace, let us this day be vessels of the love you shared when you walked on this earth.  Let your spirit fill us, shine in us, let us be ambassadors of your grace, UNITE US.  

Make us one with you so the world may believe once more that we are ONE in christ.  Together we have achieved great things, together we can do so once more not for our glory but for yours, so the world that is fragmented, broken shattered in a million pieces can know that you are real.  That these are not just stories but your love manifest on this earth.  Let us be one in you.  

In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.

Manuel Collazo

August 16, 2013