If we say a typical sermon basically has two parts, exposition and application, it’s the application that will generally let a sermon down the most.
Why is that?
The biggest reason would be, it’s hard work – it takes effort and time and reflection. Relevant, thoughtful, inspiring application does not (usually) come in one minute.
It’s essential practice to be asking, and (hopefully) answering the ‘so what’ of the passage. How is this passage relevant to those listening?
And in my case, I can be tempted to overthink the application, instead of asking simple questions of the text.
I teach three SRE lessons a week in my two local primary schools. A helpful way of applying a text, or to put it another way, how we can offer a response to a text, came from how I finish my SRE lessons. It’s a framework used by many people – ‘teaspoon prayer’ or T.S.P.
Thank you. Sorry. Please.
Obviously, it’s a great framework to teach SRE kids how, and what to pray, and I also want to suggest, a great framework for applying a text as well.
In applying a text, I ask:
What can I say ‘thank you’ for, from the passage? What can I/we be thankful for … a blessing, a promise, a sure hope, a warning, an encouragement, a lesson on what ‘not to do’ …
What can I/we say sorry for? Areas of weakness brought out from the text. Where repentance is encouraged. Where mistakes were made that we can make too. Fallen characters that we all relate to. Situations we ourselves have fallen into, or seen others fall into.
What requests can we make from the text? What can we ask of God, from the passage? It could be anything – more faith, being more generous, loving our enemies better, having a more compassionate heart for our communities, to store our treasures in heaven, …
Let’s ‘teaspoon’ a famous Bible verse as an example: John 14:6.
Jesus said to him (Thomas), ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’
Is there anything we can be thankful for? Thankful for a way to the Father. Thankful for Jesus, who goes before us, to show us the way. Thankful in a world of conflicting information, and ideals, we have the truth. Thankful that in Jesus, is real and lasting life. Thankful that we do not have to stumble in the darkness, trying to get to God. Thankful that Jesus stands alone. No one else in history has dared to say anything like Jesus does here. (It’s a divisive, offensive and seemingly arrogant statement).
Is there anything we can repent of? Anything for which we need to say sorry? Sorry that we can think we can earn our way to God. Repent of our wish/desire sometimes to soften Jesus’ exclusive message, to seem more tolerant. Sorrow in not sharing this essential element of the gospel, to a world that desperately needs to hear it.
Is there anything we can ask for? Any requests of God? Please continue to show us the way, shine your truth through us, and enable us to live in a way that pleases you. Please give us opportunities to share this with others. Please strengthen us to stick with this, in a world that doesn’t believe it, or like it, or seeks to change it. Please convict others around us, from this verse. Please draw them to yourself.
Three helpful questions to ask, in terms of application:
What can we be thankful for, from the passage?
What can we be sorry for and repent of, from the passage?
What requests, ‘pleases’, can we make, from the passage?