On October 23 I’ll be preaching a sermon on the knee. This will be the first in a series of messages on the human body, funded by a John Templeton Fuller Seminary STEAM grant. Future topics will include the gut, tongue, heart, lungs, brain, muscular skeletal system, blood, immune system, and the hand (we’ve preached on the leg, kidney, epigenetics and neurons in years past).
As I begin to gear up for this knee sermon I am reminded of the complexities of preaching scientific texts (and why most pastors shy away from them). First, I needed to connect with an expert in the field and secure their involvement in the project very early on (an orthopedic surgeon in Banff is helping with this one). This happened four months ago. Second, I assembled the rest of the sermon research team (a kinesiology professor, an MD, a nursing instructor, two students from our congregation and a second theologian). This happened three months ago. Third, I had to do some pre-research in order to get an overall sense of the ‘text’ and gain an understanding of what the knee uniquely says about God. Just like when you preach bible texts, you need to get at what that text uniquely says in the broader context of the gospel message (or the human body in this case). I’m think I’m going to go with a ‘structural engineering’ focus in relation to the knee. Fourth, I spent three hours yesterday crafting the right set of exegetical questions for the orthopedic surgeon. Questions designed to unpack both the nature of the knee, and that of the surgeon/scientist herself. Fifth, I scheduled a road trip this morning. Hopefully half of our team will be driving to Banff in three weeks to meet with this surgeon to further exegete her answers to my questions. Sixth, in the weeks ahead I will continue to collect various bits of media for the sermon presentation (video and images). Yesterday a clinic in Montana said we’d have to get a license to use their material (so we’ll find another source). Seventh, I’ve just made contact with a bio-medical appliance engineer to see if she can connect me to someone who engineers the design of replacement knees (and perhaps artificial limbs). I want to talk to this person because I think that, more than anyone, they would really understand the complex (brilliant) structural nature of the knee (and how hard it is to replicate). Eighth, I’ll continue to watch knee videos and read knee Wikipedia pages and ask knee questions of other sources in the weeks ahead. Ninth, we’ll have our meeting in Banff and the surgeon will share what she knows about the knee and (I trust) several revelatory epiphany moments will occur (hopefully along the structural lines I’m pursuing). Tenth, during the week of the 23rd I’ll sit down with everything we’ve compiled and pull a 30 minute sermon out of it. As I’m doing that bible passages will present themselves (or find their place if they’ve already surfaced in the research process). The Spirit who authors all truth will whisper and guide. And God’s word in the knee will illumine God’s word in the bible (and vice versa). And hopefully, the speaker of both words, the one through whom all things were made, the Jesus who right now has two knees, will be glorified.
Image credit – Wikimedia