Have you noticed how carefully radio and TV presenters of magazine shows link different items together?
The topics being considered may be diverse but somehow the presenter manages to link them together. By an artful comment, a careful recapitulation, or a humorous retort, the show-host moves things along, creating a pleasing sense of coherence and flow.
Such linking is not a style affectation. It connects with how our minds ordinarily work. The pattern is familiar and generally not remarked on.
Conversation at its most enjoyable easily assumes this structuring pattern. Indeed, when it doesn’t the experience can be troubling – ‘He jumped from one thing to another and I didn’t understand what he was talking about.’
Surely worship, and the preaching that takes place within it, should also follow the linking pattern? We need to hear and see that there is a coherence and direction in our shared worshipping endeavour. Without it the experience can become disconcerting or even disorientating.
It’s strange, therefore, how often scripture appears to be little more than wallpaper in so many services. Passages are read aloud but otherwise ignored in sermon, hymns, prayers and comment. No links are made and how the verses read cohere with what is being said about God and to God is left entirely to happenstance.
No wonder then the call to more serious and rigorous exposition of all the scripture used in worship. Let all that is read be expounded so that the exegesis crystal clear to everyone.
As sympathetic as I am to that call, I wonder whether its insistence on one style is adequate in our media dominated world. Perhaps we need to take our cue from the magazine show host and turn from one approach to another and another in a fleet of foot but intentional way. Whatever style we adopt we need always to make very plain the enlivening power of the Word. Nothing in worship should be mere wallpaper.