I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: Matthew 18:15-20
C. Other texts for Year [A|B|C] for [N]th Sunday in [Advent | Christmas | Lent | Easter | Ordinary Time]
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
I do this early, before researching the passage influences my questions.
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- Should this passage be shortened/extended?
- Will the hearers need an introduction before it is read?
F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?
- When scribes hand copied the Bible, various errors crept in or were ‘corrected’ by later editors.
- Some copies updated the text to reflect changes in language or culture.
- Today we can only guess which editions most accurately follow the original author.
II. Literary Study.
A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?
B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms
D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?
III. Question the text.
A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.
B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?
F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.
C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?