At Inhabit, someone asked me how I do these. Which is always a hard question for me to answer. When I cook, I cook as I go thinking of what tastes will be good playmates and improvising every step of the way. At the end, if someone asks me for a recipe, I reply: "I have no idea what I did." Each soup ala Rebecca is a one off creation never to be repeated - on purpose or otherwise.
And liturgy is kind of the same for me. I feel it out. But I'm working on better understanding the nuts and bolts of the process.
So, I stopped to think: how do I do these?
The first step is finding the right passage. Still not sure how to break that down into a how to. (I'll keep working on that and hopefully add it to the book proposal I'm working on).
But once I have the right passage, I exegete it like I would for a sermon. For example, what does David mean when he says "If I rise on the wings of the dawn and settle on the far side of the sea?" Some thought and a brief read of a commentary tells us that to David this means: "If I go east to somewhere I wouldn't expect Yahweh to be: there Yahweh is."
In writing a sermon, the next step would be to imagine, what is the equivalent of fleeing to the east for us today in my neighborhood.
But here's where the madlib writing process diverges from writing a sermon: I leave it up to you to know what that eastern place is. So instead of an answer, I write a question: "What is a place to the east of your neighborhood that you or others might go to flee from God?" And my answer is behind the QFC across Broadway where neighbors suffering with addiction often hide. And David is telling me Yahweh lives there. Take that in.
Or in Isaiah 65, when the prophet says the wolf and the lamb will dine together, little exegesis reveals that these are incompatible folks - one of whose sustenance relies on taking advantage of or harming the other. So I ask "What is a predatory group or organization in your neighborhood? Or who in your neighborhood relies on harming others to get by?" "And who is it they harm?" And I write a madlib sentence where group A feasts with group B, and it becomes this revolutionary and potentially dangerous vision of what God's Kingdom might look like in your experience of your neighborhood.
Think for a moment of who might be group A and group B in your neighborhood. Imagine them feasting some celebratory meal together in laughter, play, unity, and the kind of unbridled reconciliation that this Jesus guy is all about. Now remember we are invited to participate in the coming of this seemingly-unfathomable denouement. Tell me that's not powerful. I'm a little goose-bumpy/teary/kingdom-sick/antsy-to-make-it-all-happen even typing this and thinking of my groups A and B.
As the age of the pastor as expert wanes where it has not yet disappeared, I wonder if a possible (occasional) way forward for the sermon is to use those exegetical skills we spent so much time and money acquiring and using it less for lilting answers than for composing questions, and allowing the community to write the sermon - to cast God's past story into God's continuing, echoing future in our neighborhoods?
Imagine inviting your church to take 10 minutes of sermon time to fill in one of these worksheets and then another 5 to share what they wrote. I believe you'd have a people lit up with a vision for a liberating revival of love and justice in their neighborhoods far far beyond what my homiletics course instilled in me. Though, at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, they have to come up with hip names for everything. So homeletics was "Crafting Transformational Moments." And let me just suggest: inviting a community to a madlib of God's Kingdom would certainly become a "Transformational Moment."
Below: three examples of the exegetical madlib game I'm talking about
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