My method is drawn from Fred Craddock, who I intentionally pulled a brier Rabbit on my mid-degree review to be able to take three classes with when there was a limit of one; my love of the semicolon from Faulkner and love of life’s humor from Jerry Sienfield and laughing at myself, you and the rest of the world. The Gospel is a Joy, a Story, the message of our hope and salvation. Share it; enjoy it, and grow in living in response to it.
Scripture is to be read through the three lenses of Tradition, Reason and Spiritual Experience. The danger comes when we use only one lens because are most likely to lead ourselves and others astray. If we only use two we will convince ourselves our interpretation is true even when it likely skewed. But with all three we use the fruits and gifts of those who have struggled through the Word for generations prior, and we use the gift of wonderful minds and devoted reflections, AND we benefit from the power of the Spirit to directly touch our hearts. Together its power is revealed, any less and it only reveals the cracked vessel sharing it.
The Sermon that has three points that rhyme or one part-3 in a 4-part series might help people remember points, but I would offer that nothing replaces the genuine study, reflection, discussion, and repetitive sharing of the scriptures in fresh and tangible ways. My favorite recounted story about sermon titles is by a professor/preacher/teacher who stated that the sermon title on the sign out front of the church should make a stranger get off the bus and come inside to hear the Good News. To which a student raises their hand and replied, “I have the perfect title: There’s a bomb on the bus.”
Plagiarism is a violation of sacred trust, but how many times do you read in scripture verses of other text quoted and misquoted without reference, credit, or blame. I would suggest the issue is integrity. I believe and the equal offense is to waste the space and time of laborious proof referencing given to the congregation to empress them with the preacher’s extensive research and time spent reading and preparing. The congregation will know the integrity of the preacher’s study from the depth of their spiritual journey and time living with the word. If all they hear is that you read the news and studied the theologian, but fail to hear Christ’s heart through yours, your sermon is yours and not God’s message.