One of the things I've gained over the years, is an appreciation for differing opinions. Since I've been at Liberty, one of the things I've really liked is that John (one of our co-pastors) gives me constructive criticism on my sermons - those that he's here for, or has a chance to hear the podcast. And I do mean constructive criticism. I've heard of other Senior pastors ripping their AP's, being condescending, etc. I don't get that, and I appreciate it. I also don't get the blind praise - which you get from so many other people.
Multiple voices & multiple angles are important, because you don't always see something initially - but with the help of others, it can come out. One example of this for me recently was in preparation for Sunday's sermon on John 4, story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. I found something very interesting in The Luke-John, New Interpreter's Bible commentary. It was a completely different angle or possibility on this woman's situation - and it was the 1 thing that was commented on most by people that said something specific about my sermon. Here's the relevant excerpt from my sermon, I think it speaks for itself:
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
So, Jesus turns away from this water analogy and reveals a little bit more – now, he’s showing her the depth of his knowledge – his knowledge of her. Now, there’s a good debate about this woman’s past – she’s had 5 husbands and the man she now “has” is not her husband. She’s drawing water in the heat of the day, not the usual time to get water. Is this woman a social outcast? Is she a prostitute? An adulterer? Certainly there are sermons that have focused on this woman in that light – and yet there are other explanations. It’s possible that she was a casualty of that Levitical social tradition where brothers would marry their brothers widow in hopes of providing an heir. Maybe she’s gone through 5 brothers who’ve all died, and now, out of fear of his own death, the next in line is refusing to marry her? Whichever the case is, what’s interesting here is that Jesus doesn’t bother to address it. All he does is let her know – I know your situation. Whether it’s her sin, or her social captivity – Jesus knows...